A moratorium resembling a no-lockout, no-strike pledge was discussed Wednesday during an NBA collective bargaining session as a way to reinstate the 12 players who were removed from the U.S. world championships team.
Seven of the 12 expelled players met by conference call during the morning as commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Russ Granik, union director Billy Hunter and union president Patrick Ewing convened at a Manhattan law office for a regularly scheduled bargaining session.
A moratorium extending into mid-summer, which would have the effect of a no-lockout, no-strike agreement, was discussed in broad terms, sources told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. It would allow for the return of the 12 NBA players to the world championship roster.
FIBA, the international federation that runs the world championships, has given USA Basketball an extension until the end of this month for submitting a 24-man roster. Additional changes can be made to that roster up until 72 hours before the tournament.
"It's unfortunate that the league has taken such a hard line and forced this confrontation," said Bill Duffy, the agent for one of the removed players, Terrell Brandon of the Milwaukee Bucks. "All the players can do is react to the threat of the imposition of a lockout."
After meeting for about three hours Wednesday, the league and the union agreed to meet again early next week before Stern departs for the NBA draft in Vancouver.
Little progress has been made toward reaching an agreement to replace the one that expires at midnight June 30. The NBA has made two proposals, the players one.
The sides are far apart on the issues of a hard salary cap, the Larry Bird exception which allows teams to re-sign their own veteran free agents at any price, a rookie salary scale and a new drug agreement.
A lockout is widely expected to be imposed July 1, shutting down the league.
The players on the world championship team had told USA Basketball that they would wait until July 2 to inform them whether they would attend, and the basketball federation decided Tuesday to select a team of CBA players and Americans currently playing overseas.
The tournament will be held in Athens, Greece July 29-Aug. 9.
Many saw the replacement of the 12 players as an early battleground in a summer of labor unrest. USA Basketball officials countered by insisting they are not controlled by the NBA and will need time to put together a replacement team.
"I think there will be a real discussion about whether these types of players are proud to wear USA Basketball on their chest and wrap the flag around them, if you will," USAB director Warren Brown said. "To the rest of the world, the world championships are the most important basketball tournament in the world, more prestigious than the Olympics."
Without a team of NBA players, the United States would be in jeopardy of missing the 2000 OlympicsTo qualify, the United States must win the world championships or be among the top four finishers in next year's Americas zone qualifying tournament.
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