BASKETBALL: Salary dispute threatens NBA season

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The Independent Online
THE NBA's record of never missing a regular-season game because of industrial disputes is in jeopardy after the cancellation of the pre- season programme. After calling off the first 24 exhibition games, the NBA cancelled the final 90 because of stalled labour negotiations with the players.

"At this point, our teams cannot possibly be ready to play any games before November," Russ Granik, the deputy commissioner, said. "It's sad that we have been unable to have any meaningful negotiations."

The next collective bargaining session is set for tomorrow. The league said decisions concerning possible cancellation of regular-season games would be made next week. The season is scheduled to begin 3 November.

When the two sides meet again, they will have only a few days to strike a deal that would preserve an 82-game schedule. Once a new agreement is reached, it will take at least three weeks to sign players, make trades and hold abbreviated training camps. So unless a deal can be completed a few days after the sides reconvene, there appears no way the season can start as scheduled.

The owners' latest proposal still calls for a system with an absolute ceiling on salaries - or a "hard" salary cap. The union said the owners included 16 pages of new demands that weren't discussed in any previous meetings. "Our proposals would result in an average player salary of more than $3.1m (pounds 1.9m) and a minimum salary for 10-year veterans of $750,000," Granik said.

Both sides await a ruling from arbitrator John Feerick on the union's grievance over whether players with guaranteed contracts should be paid during the lockout. Feerick's decision could come at any time before 19 October.

Michael Jordan says money wasn't the reason he didn't go through with making the basketball movie Heaven is a Playground. The Chicago Bulls star denied in court that he failed to appear in the 1991 flop because of the $350,000 pay cheque. Jordan later signed a $4m deal for Space Jam, a box-office success.

Jordan and David Falk, his agent, contend the producers of Heaven is a Playground failed to come up with adequate financing for the movie.

The producers are seeking between $16m and $20m in damages, or what they believe could have been the film's profit. Jordan maintains both sides agreed to postpone the film, and he has counter-sued, alleging that the producers knowingly misled him about financing.