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NBA

NBA labor agreement may be reopened

Talks between the league and union are in response to the struggling economy.

February 15, 2009|Mark Heisler

PHOENIX — NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBA Players Assn. head Billy Hunter disclosed Saturday that in light of the nation's economic plight, they're in talks that could reopen the current bargaining agreement.

"I can't tell you that we are close to reaching a deal, but we have been talking," said Hunter, appearing at Stern's All-Star news conference.

" . . . We all understand that we live and benefit from the success of the NBA. The last thing we want to do is see it lose its vitality. We will do everything possible to reach a deal.

"Whether or not that means we will reopen before the expiration of the current contract's conclusion is another question. But I can say to you that we are anxious to reach a deal."

The NBA and the union are in the fourth season of a six-year deal that expires in 2011, with the NBA holding the option of extending until 2012.

"I don't quite think of it as reopening or not," said Stern, characterizing the talks as proactive.

"Just to talk about frameworks and understandings and say when we get to the last day and then it is either one side or the other, it leads to bad things."

Stern has said his primary concern is for future seasons.

Saturday he said the league is not currently in trouble, noting, "Even in a difficult economic environment, we are going to maintain our attendance and our revenues. . . .

"We are in the first year of an eight-year TV deal with the Walt Disney Company and Time Warner, and our teams, on average, have 10-year local deals. So we think that is some cushion."

Asked about being named in former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor's suit against owner Donald T. Sterling, Stern said he hadn't seen the complaint.

Baylor's suit originally alleged that Stern had been present in 1988 when Sterling said his offer to No. 1 draft pick Danny Manning "is a lot for a poor Black kid." Baylor's attorney, Carl Douglas, then dropped the assertion in an amended filing, after dialogue with NBA officials.

"That's news to me," Stern said. "I don't know. I would tell you if I did. . . .

"My instructions are to tell you that I haven't seen the complaint and, therefore, I can't comment about it. I actually haven't seen the complaint . . . [but] the news story about it was enough to make me very sad. I have known Elgin for, my gosh, I don't know, I began as an attorney for the league in 1966. . . .

"This is one of our legends."

In response to a question about adopting Olympic standards for drug tests, Stern lashed out at Dick Pound, a prominent member of the IOC board and former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

"I was reading about [Rafael] Nadal's responses to having to tell people where he was going on Saturday night, so he could be tested if the bloodhounds wanted to find him," Stern said.

" . . . I find some of what is going on and some of the epic pronunciamentos that have come out, particularly when Mr. Pound was there, to be offensive. . . .

"There's a little too much holier-than-thou stuff going on. And we think our players have stepped up and done the right thing with us. And although we will continue to work with them to improve it, we are not on some kind of a witch hunt."

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mark.heisler@latimes.com

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