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It's Much Ado About Nothing

Pro basketball: NBA representatives and the players finally meet, but they merely rehash old material as lockout continues, threatening start of season.

October 09, 1998|MARK HEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After a little lull--try all summer--the NBA and the players are meeting again, although actual negotiations seem too much to expect.

The two sides met Thursday for five hours in New York, only their second formal gathering since the league locked the players out July 1. In the first meeting, the NBA officials walked out.

However, all they did Thursday was go over old ground. NBA Commissioner David Stern says the players only wanted to hear the league's old offer, which includes an absolute or "hard" cap that they have pledged to fight.

The players will make counter-proposals at another meeting Tuesday, three weeks before the scheduled start of the season Nov. 3.

"Discussions that we continue to have are amiable on a personal level," Commissioner David Stern said, ". . . . [but] leaving the personalities out of it, just on the agendas that we have to get moving on, there was nothing in this meeting that moved that along."

In English, that's "Nothing happened."

The NBA has canceled its exhibition season and could cancel the start of the season as early as next week, which would only confirm what is becoming more and more obvious.

"It [a full season] is looking less and less likely everyday although we're trying to hold on to every day that we can," Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said. "But it will really take some major, major breakthrough and that doesn't seem likely to happen."

Officials on both sides deny it publicly, but insiders fear there will be no meaningful negotiations until Fordham University Dean John Feerick rules on the union's arbitration case, which asserts that the 220 players with guaranteed contracts must be paid, even if the NBA decides to shut itself down.

Feerick has until Oct. 19 to rule--15 days from the start of the season As NBA Players Assn. director Billy Hunter said before Thursday's meeting: "We're prepared to address their concerns, we really are. But I'm not going to bid against myself. They have taken an intransigent position in which they are not prepared to respond to anything other than what they are demanding."

Said union president Patrick Ewing afterward, seizing on the positive:

"Well, nobody walked out."

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