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NBA TALKS FACE SERIOUS SETBACK AS OWNERS WALK OUT

          Negotiations between the NBA and its players broke off
     yesterday when the owners' group "abruptly ended the
     session, dismissing a union proposal as economically
     perilous," according to Murray Chass of the N.Y. TIMES. 
     Chass: "Both sides accused the other of deliberately
     torpedoing the meeting and the immediate chance for progress
     in the off-season lockout."  No further bargaining sessions
     are scheduled, though lawyers for the league and the players
     will meet today with arbitrator John Feerick "to schedule a
     hearing on the union's grievance over the teams' failure to
     pay guaranteed salaries" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7). 
          DETAILS: USA TODAY's Roscoe Nance reports that talks
     took a "giant step backward" after a "cordial" and
     "seemingly productive morning" where the sides reached a
     consensus to add marijuana to the league's banned substance
     list and the owners offered a proposal for a hard cap to be
     phased in, which would add $50M a year to player salaries
     and increase the average salary from $2.6M to "at least"
     $3.1M in year four.  But those "good feelings disappeared"
     in the afternoon when union counsel Jeffrey Kessler
     presented a proposal from players which included: player
     salary increases tied to league growth, with 63% of BRI
     going to salaries; a three-year rookie wage scale with teams
     holding the right of first refusal in year four; a $500,000
     minimum salary for players with 1-5 years experience, and
     $750,000 for those with 5-7 years, with an extra $100,000
     per year of service; an average salary exception that would
     provide a $3M pool for teams over the cap to sign one player
     a year for the average salary; and a lottery exception that
     would allow teams over the salary cap that don't make the
     playoffs to sign any player they want to.  NBA Commissioner
     David Stern and the owners then walked out when Kessler,
     Stern said, began "lecturing owners on the risks they were
     taking by not accepting the proposal."  Stern: "The words
     they were using were an insult" (USA TODAY, 8/7).  In N.Y.,
     Lenn Robbins writes the meeting had a "sudden, childish
     conclusion" (N.Y. POST, 8/7).  NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter,
     on the walkout: "I think it's more feigned.  It's part of a
     charade.  It was funny" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).   
          LEGAL-ESE: Both Stern and Deputy Commissioner Russ
     Granik "attributed the afternoon breakdown to union
     management thwarting talks with 'a lecture' on the legal
     shaky ground the owners inhabited in two pending litigation
     cases" -- one where Feerick will rule if owners must pay
     players during the lockout, the other a complaint before the
     NLRB stating the owners have unfairly imposed the lockout
     before an impasse had been reached.  Granik: "The best we
     can surmise is their counsel told them, 'You don't want to
     do anything constructive here.  You want to play out the
     legal string'" (Ric Bucher, WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).  ESPN's
     David Aldridge reported that both sides will now wait on an
     anticipated hearing next week on whether the league has to
     pay its players' guaranteed salaries during the lockout.  If
     Feerick "rules for the union, and that ruling is upheld,
     there would be little financial incentive for the league to
     continue the lockout" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/6).
          MORNING SICKNESS? Hunter said "at least part" of the
     morning session was "acrimonious," including an early
     exchange between Karl Malone and Jerry Colangelo.  Kessler:
     "Colangelo said we had to address the drug agreement, rookie
     issues and a hard salary cap.  They want to slow the growth
     of salaries" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7).  Granik said later that the
     "major change the union made that was positive" was their
     position on the rookie contract, which would run three
     years, with players subject to a first refusal system "akin
     to what we used to have" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/7). 
          WHO ATTENDED: Stern and Granik said the morning session
     included talks between players and owner reps, which
     included the Rockets' Les Alexander; the Knicks' Dave
     Checketts; the Jazz's Larry Miller; the Heat's Mickey Arison
     and the Suns' Jerry Colangelo (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).  
     Thirteen players attended the talks (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/7). 
          THE PLAYERS REACT: Karl Malone: "I was totally amazed
     at all the games they (owners) were trying to play, instead
     of dealing with issues.  When they walked out, I couldn't
     believe it. ... To me, the message was sent.  They treated
     me with disrespect by walking out of the meeting and not
     negotiating" ("The Last Word," FSN, 8/6).  Magic rep Danny
     Schayes: "It got a little ugly at the end, but that's
     typical at this state of negotiations" (ORLANDO SENTINEL,
     8/7).  The Wizards' Mitch Richmond: "When we first stepped
     into the room we said our stance hadn't changed and we
     weren't willing to go with a hard cap and I think right
     there they were willing to walk out" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7). 
     NBPA President Patrick Ewing: "It's just too bad that
     instead of dealing with it, the owners had to show us
     disrespect by getting up and walking out" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS,
     8/7).  CNN/SI's Mark Morgan reported that on August 10,
     Hunter and Ewing "will begin a series of meetings around the
     country to build union support" ("Sports Tonight," 8/6). 
          FROM MANAGEMENT: Stern: "I think they intended for
     their proposal to be insulting.  And then to have their
     attorney lecture the owners on what a grave risk they are
     taking if they don't accept the latest proposal.  That's not
     negotiating" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/7).  Granik, on the union:
     "The strategy here is to litigate, arbitrate and make no
     concessions" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7).  More Granik: "At this
     point, it's hard to be optimistic" (USA TODAY, 8/7).
          DID KESSLER LECTURE? Kessler said he didn't lecture
     owners: "When they were about to storm out of the meeting, I
     suggested that they recognize there are going to be some
     very important legal decisions to be made rather quickly and
     it might be in their interest to negotiate seriously before
     those decisions come down" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 8/7).
          OTHER REAX: On CBS SportsLine, Mike Kahn writes the
     last CBA was negated after players received up to 57% of BRI
     as opposed to 48% and "now they wanted more?"  Kahn: "We now
     have intermediaries involved who could destroy the 1998-99
     basketball season. ... With Kessler ranting legalese at
     Stern, Granik, [NBA Senior VP/Chief Legal Counsel] Jeff
     Mishkin and [NBA General Counsel] Joel Litvin -- all with
     law degrees -- it made little sense to expect a respectful
     audience" (CBS SportsLine, 8/7).  In DC, Michael Wilbon
     writes that despite yesterday's breakdown, he feels the
     "majority of NBA players aren't committed to missing a
     season.  Or a portion of a season.  A great number of the
     NBA's high-profile players are committed to one thing and
     one thing only: getting paid" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).

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