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The NBA has "postponed" the opening of training camps and the free agent signing period because the new CBA "has yet to be finished and signed," according to Lacy Banks of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The "biggest disagreement" concerns the new salary-cap exception, allowing teams over the cap to sign an additional free agent. The union wants the exception to be used for six-year contracts and the league wants it "limited" to three-year deals. NBA Senior VP/Communications Brian McIntyre: "Camps definitely won't open (today)." A league source said that there are "so many unresolved issues, camps might not open until Friday" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/19). In N.Y., Mike Wise writes that another "minor issue" to be resolved involves salary cap circumvention, "to insure teams and agents do not conspire to go around the agreement's terms in their negotiations." League and union execs are "concerned that the lockout would not be lifted until late this week" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19). Wise wrote on Sunday that other issues include the "haggling over" the definition of BRI, sharing of TV revenue, and "several conduct issues" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18). NBPA Outside Counsel Jeffrey Kessler: "We've drafted and reviewed over 400 pages, including the anti-drug agreement and other agreements. Just because of the time involved, getting through all the language, it is virtually impossible it could get signed today" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/19). LICENSE TO MARKET: BRANDWEEK's Terry Lefton reports that NBA CMO Rick Welts said that the NBA and union "extended" the agreement granting the league licensing rights to the names and faces of its players for "two years beyond the new six-year collective bargaining agreement." Since the league can extend the CBA to a seventh year, the new group licensing deal is good "for either eight or nine more years." The NBA's "guarantee" of $25M annually to players as payment for their licensing rights continues, but a union source said that the number will drop to $20M this season, due to the lockout (BRANDWEEK, 1/18 issue). SEASON OF FORGIVENESS: The NBA reinstated seven refs who had been suspended by the league after being "charged and found guilty" of committing tax fraud. In Chicago, Lacy Banks called the move, which will "help upgrade the quality of play," "welcome and timely" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/17). NBA Commissioner David Stern, from a statement: "This is a time for healing. Each of the referees has accepted his punishment and expressed genuine remorse for his actions" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/16). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote that Stern "can talk about forgiveness, but the league had no choice but to reinstate" the referees because it "was going to have a problem filling its 58-man roster." A league source said that the NBA will reinstate other refs who are "still in the IRS's pipeline," but they will first have to "sit out six months" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/17). NOTES: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand profiles Weil, Gothshal & Manges' attorney Jim Quinn, who played a key role in the final CBA deal (USA TODAY, 1/19)....76ers President Pat Croce, after 76ers G Allen Iverson was served court papers for failing to make lease payments on three Mercedes: "Maybe now that Michael Jordan's retired, [David Falk] will pay more attention to Allen" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/18).
The NFL has hired Muhleman Marketing's Max Muhleman to "assess" whether the L.A. market "can bear the prices two competing ... groups plan to charge" for seats if awarded the 32nd franchise. Muhleman was hired in late December (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/18 issue)....IHL President Doug Moss said that Victoria, British Columbia, "is set" for an expansion team "in the next couple of years," and the Las Vegas Thunder will be "moving out" of the Thomas & Mack Center to another in the city. Moss: "We have had offers to play in arenas connected to different casinos, but we don't know if we want to go that route" (CINCINNATI POST, 1/18). ...Of the 39 LPGA events returning from '98, the HealthSouth Inaugural's $550,000 purse, down from $600,000, is the only one to decrease. LPGA Commissioner Jim Ritts: "In the latter quarters of last year, the health industry ... was faced with a great deal of tumult." As a result, Ritts said that the LPGA allowed HealthSouth to reduce the purse and agreed to help them sell-off some of their advertiser inventories in the telecast (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/16)....The CPBL Board of Directors includes former NBA MVP Spencer Haywood, U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek (D-FL) and the N.Y. Post's Peter Vecsey. CPBL President Paul McMann: "We're not going the way of the ABL. What differentiates us from the ABL is we know what we have to do. The ABL didn't. Our league won't survive on ticket sales alone" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/17).
Orioles Owner Peter Angelos and the MLB delegation that is visiting Cuba "likely will return home today without a final agreement to stage the potentially historic" home-and- home exhibition series, according to Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore SUN. There will be "at least one more meeting" with Cuban officials today before the delegation returns to Baltimore today (Baltimore SUN, 1/19). Among those joining Angelos in Cuba was MLB Exec VP/Operations Sandy Alderson, Orioles LF B.J. Surhoff, MLB counsel Bill Schweitzer, MLBPA rep Tony Bernazard (Baltimore SUN, 1/16). A "major hurdle" in the negotiations "may be the distribution of revenue" generated from the series (Baltimore SUN, 1/18). NOTE: On ESPN.com, Tracy Ringolsby wrote that MLB's "Blue Ribbon [Economic] Committee" assigned by Commissioner Bud Selig "has some major flaws" and is "anything but a bipartisan contingent." Four of the "so-called independent" members have "ownership ties." George Mitchell was a commissioner candidate; Paul Volcker was an ownership appointee to a '90 study panel; Richard Levin was a "close friend" of the late Bart Giamatti; and George Will is on the Board of Dirs for the Orioles & Padres (ESPN.com, 1/18).