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Players, Owners Wait For Arbitrator

NBA players awaiting an arbitration hearing that could swing the leverage in collective bargaining talks don't expect any forward motion in the stalemate for at least a week.

About a dozen players attended a regional meeting of the players association Monday. The union is holding player meetings across the country.

The next step in getting both sides back to the bargaining table hinges on a decision by arbitrator John Feerick, the dean of the Fordham University law school, said Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Player's Association.

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  • Feerick will convene a hearing Aug. 24 to decide whether about 220 players with guaranteed contracts should be paid during the lockout. Hunter said he expects a decision by Labor Day.

    "We're anxious to negotiate, but that won't occur until after Aug. 24," Hunter said.

    What Feerick says probably will decide who comes back to the negotiations with the stronger bargaining stance. Bargaining broke down in early August when NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners abruptly left a meeting after receiving the players' latest offer.

    If Freerick rules that owners do not have to pay those players during the lockout, the owners could gamble that players will soften their stance under the threat of continued money loss.

    Players adamantly oppose the hard salary cap pushed by owners, fearing that superstars would use up most of the money available under the cap and leave others fighting for the scraps. Hunter said if that issue is resolved, he believes the others will fall into place.

    "Everything is going smoothly, and we feel like everybody's got to keep a level head and find compromise," said Samaki Walker of the Dallas Mavericks.

    The issue of whether to include marijuana in the NBA's drug policy is one of the few areas of agreement between the players and owners. Both have agreed to add marijuana to the list of anned substances, but the players association says that will happen only after other agreements are released.

    "We'll incorporate it if we get everything else," Hunter said.

    Otherwise, most players at the meeting are intent on ending the lockout by the time training camps are scheduled to start in early November.

    "All the guys I've talked to want to play ball, but we don't want to be part of something that will affect the guys coming into the league," Shawn Bradley of the Mavericks said.

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