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NBA Adopts The 'January Theory'

It's called the January Theory, and it holds that the NBA lockout will last at least another five weeks.

"It could be that they don't meet for another month," agent Steve Kauffman said Sunday. "I've been telling my players for the past couple of weeks that they shouldn't expect to play until mid-January at the earliest."

With negotiations stalled and the players believing the owners are trying to further test their resolve, it appears commissioner David Stern is following a lockout calendar similar to the one employed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during the 1994-95 lockout, which wasn't settled until Jan. 13.

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The hockey lockout included a period from Dec. 6-Jan. 7 in which no talks were held. The sides then made "final" offers and "final-final" offers before a marathon negotiating session settled it.

It would take another three weeks of lockout limbo to match that month lull. So far, the sides in the NBA dispute have gone 10 days since their last full bargaining session, and that 91/2-hour meeting was the only one the sides had in November.

Currently, the owners and players are at odds over whether there will be preconditions for a resumption.

About 120 players participated in a conference call Saturday and were brought up to date on the stalemate, a union spokesman said.

Monday will mark the second missed payday for the players, and a new month will begin Tuesday with the outlook bleak. Millions of dollars have been lost, the fans are upset and the long-term damage could be worse than expected.

Stern and deputy commissioner Russ Granik have staunchly refused to set a "drop dead" date for saving the season, although they have alluded to mid-December being the ballpark date.

That vague deadline could be extended, however, if Stern backs off his insistence upon having the deal put on paper and ratified -- a process that could take 2-3 weeks -- before the lockout would be lited.

"If they back off that 2-3 weeks, it's a different story. Then the January theory makes a lot of sense," said Kauffman, who represents 19 players. "And remember, we can go from a doomsday scenario to a settlement in a matter of 2-3 days."

Stern and Granik have said four weeks would be needed from the time a deal was reached until the season could begin, but in reality that window could be shrunk to three weeks -- and maybe as few as 18-20 days -- to allow for free agent signings, trades and training camps to take place.

So if an agreement were reached Jan. 4, for instance, and the signing-training camp period was shrunk to 20 days, the season would begin Sunday, Jan. 24 -- one week before the Super Bowl and one week after NBC was scheduled to begin its weekly telecasts.

Each team would then be able to play a 46- or 48-game season, but only if two weeks were added on to the end of the regular season in April.

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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