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Sides to resume collective bargaining talks

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2005

Billy Hunter had promised to make one more call to NBA commissioner David Stern, and he wasted little time picking up the phone. As a result, collective bargaining talks between owners and players will resume Friday.

No meetings have been held since June 1 when the sides met for 2 1/2 hours at the union's offices in New York.

The past two weeks have been marked by public posturing from both sides, with the latest salvo coming Wednesday when Hunter, director of the players' union, traveled to the NBA Finals to explain his side of the story as to why talks have been stalled.

Hunter said he would call Stern before the current labor agreement expires June 30, and that call apparently was made Thursday.

Officials from the league office and the players' union both confirmed that talks would resume Friday at an unspecified site in New York. Both sides are expected to have their usual compliment of attorneys and support staff who have engaged in on-and-off talks throughout the late winter and spring.

On Wednesday, Hunter said he surmised from Stern's public comments last Sunday that only three issues remain in dispute — an age limit for rookies, a tougher drug-testing program and the maximum length of long-term contracts, but deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Hunter's assumption was incorrect.

Owners are known to be seeking several other changes to current rules, including a new luxury tax (dubbed a ''supertax'') for the highest spending teams, reductions in the size of annual salary increases in long-term contracts, a shortened rookie wage scale and adjustments to the so-called trigger percentages that activate the escrow and luxury taxes designed to curtail spending on player salaries.

Stern did not reference those items when he addressed the media prior to Game 2 of the finals, though he did go into detail about where the owners stand on the other items. He said the league wants the minimum age raised to 19, the maximum contract length reduced from seven years to six, and an anti-drug agreement that would call for veterans to be tested year-round.

Currently, veterans are tested only once per year, during training camp.



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