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WE GOT GAME: DISPUTE ENDS; SEASON TO START IN FEBRUARY.

Byline: Howard Beck Daily News Staff Writer

It took 190 days, $500 million in lost player salaries and a marathon, 11th-hour negotiating session, but NBA players and owners finally, mercifully ended the most costly labor war in league history early Wednesday morning.

Union director Billy Hunter and commissioner David Stern negotiated for 12 hours at the league's New York offices, concluding at 6 a.m. EST and emerging with a draft of a new, six- to seven-year collective bargaining agreement.

An overwhelming majority of players ratified the deal hours later, and the NBA's 29 owners are expected to approve it today, ending an ugly six-month standoff that nearly killed the entire season.

Owners originally planned to vote today on Stern's recommendation to cancel the season and prolong the lockout. Instead, they will lock in six years of presumed labor peace.

``I expect the agreement to be ratified by the board of governors at (today's) meeting,'' Stern said in a prepared statement. ``I have agreed with Billy Hunter that I will not discuss the agreement in detail until after its approval by the board. I will say that I am elated that we will be playing basketball this season.''

A timeline for resuming league business was not announced, but the season probably will start the first week of February, and teams will play a 52-game schedule.

Training camps and roster movement, including the signings of 200 free agents, are on hold pending completion of the deal by league and union attorneys. However, teams are expected to start signing players within 7 to 10 days and open training camps by Jan. 18.

A leaguewide gag order on team officials remains in effect, possibly for another week.

Fans across the country greeted the lockout's end with mixed emotions, both joy and disgust, and NBA players admitted they have much work yet to do to restore the league's image.

``There are no winners in this thing,'' said Detroit's Jerome Williams. ``We've lost sight of the fact that without the fans, we and the NBA are nothing.''

Indiana guard Fred Hoiberg echoed that sentiment, saying: ``I don't think anyone won. Both sides lost on it.''

If a winner is to be declared, though, give the nod to Stern and NBA owners. Although the league did not get the hard salary cap it sought, the union caved on most major issues, agreeing to absolute ceilings on individual salaries, longer rookie contracts, elimination of opt-out clauses and numerous constraints on free agency.

For many players and agents, there was little to celebrate except that the lockout is over.

``This is not a victory. This not a tie. It is an overwhelming loss,'' Los Angeles-based agent Dan Fagen told the Daily News. ``Overall, the deal is just God-awful. It is the worst deal negotiated by a union in professional sports history, as far as I'm concerned.''

Fagen said Hunter, a former prosecutor and entertainment lawyer negotiating his first labor deal, was vastly overmatched against Stern.

``If you have a brain tumor, you go to a brain surgeon, not an orthopedic surgeon,'' he said. ``Whatever made us capable of thinking Billy Hunter was capable of handling a ($2 billion) negotiation . . .''

Agent Marc Fleisher said the union conceded too much, too soon last summer, when it agreed to slash annual salary increases from 20 percent to 10 percent. That began a six-month pattern of union concessions, with the league making little movement.

``For the players to have lost this much money and come away with a deal this bad is really disheartening,'' Fleisher said.

The greatest economic concession was caps on all player salaries. Under the new agreement, there won't be any $33 million, one-year deals like the one Chicago's Michael Jordan had. Jordan and others over the new limits will have their contracts grandfathered in, however, with 5 percent annual raises.

More significantly, there won't be any more $126 million deals like the one signed by Minnesota's Kevin Garnett after only two years in the league.

The players, however, avoided major reductions in their overall cut of league revenues. Owners wanted to reduce player's percentage from 57 percent to 52. The agreement instead calls for a reduction to 55 percent in the final three years, with no limit in the first three years.

The union also gained new salary-cap exceptions to bolster pay for the middle-class.

Observers say the deal finally got done because Stern and Hunter feared what might transpire Wednesday, when 200 players were scheduled to meet in New York.

The meeting's purpose was to hold a vote on whether to support union leadership's rejection of Stern's final offer. But dissent was growing rapidly among the rank-and-file over the union's decision-making, and the meeting could have been disastrous for the players' vaunted unity. A split union would surely lose, and some believed a majority of players might even vote in favor of Stern's offer, undercutting Hunter.

At the same time, several players were moving to oust Hunter and positioning former union president Isiah Thomas to step in, according to some reports.

But another possible scenario had the players' meeting turning into a unity-building pep rally. And if players made a final stand and rejected Stern's offer, the commissioner would have been forced to either follow through with his threat and cancel the season or have that threat exposed as a bluff.

In the end, Stern and Hunter had ample motivation to hammer out a deal before the players could meet. With an agreement in hand, Hunter turned the meeting into a ratification session, and players voted 174-5 to approve the deal.

``I'm glad we got everything settled before there was a free-for-all,'' Houston's Charles Barkley told The New York Times. ``It could have been bad.''

Despite all the talk to the contrary, it didn't take long for fans to flock back to the league. By midday, the Lakers had sold 26 season tickets.

``The phone lines are just lit up,'' said sales director Erin Estrada. ``We sold more (tickets) today than obviously we've sold in the last few months.''

And in the Forum offices, where employees had started worrying about layoffs, the mood had become much brighter.

``Just walking up and down the halls, it's a huge sense of relief,'' Estrada said. ``This last week, more than any other time, there was a lot of tension. I think everybody just feels a huge sense of relief. . . . There's a new energy here.''

A COMPROMISING SITUATION

A look at the final proposal by the owners and players' union and what the two sides settled on:

OWNERS SETTLEMENT PLAYERS

Contract length

Six years with Six years with Six years

NBA option for 7th NBA option for 7th

Percentage of revenues for salaries

1-3 yrs.: No fixed figure No fixed figure No fixed figure

4 yrs.:53 percent 55 percent 55 percent

5 yrs.: 53.5 percent 55 percent 56 percent

6 yrs.: 54 percent 55 percent 57 percent

7 yrs.: 54.5 percent 57 percent N/A

Maximum salary

0-6 yrs.: $8.75 million $9 million $9 million

7-9 yrs.: $10.5 million $11 million $11 million

10+ yrs.: $12.25 million $14 million $15 million

Rookies

OWNERS: 3-year contract with team option for fourth at 25 percent salary increase; right of first refusal in fifth year

SETTLEMENT: 3-year contract with option for fourth after second year; right of first refusal in year 5

PLAYERS: 3-year contract with team option for fourth year at wage scale or right of first refusal

Minimum salary

Rookies: $275,000 $287,500 $300,000

1 year: $300,000 $350,000 $400,000

2 years: $350,000 $425,000 $500,000

3 years: $400,000 $450,000 $500,000

4 years: $450,000 $475,000 $500,000

5 years: $500,000 $537,500 $575,000

6 years: $550,000 $600,000 $650,000

7 years: $600,000 $662,500 $725,000

8 years: $650,000 $725,000 $800,000

9 years: $700,000 $850,000 $1 million

10+ years: $1 million $1 million N/A

Maximum raises

OWNERS: 12.5 percent for Larry Bird players; 7.5 percent for others

SETTLEMENT: 12 percent for Bird players; 10 percent for anyone else

PLAYERS: 13 percent for Bird players; 10% for others.

Note: A player earns his Bird rights if he is under a single contract with the same team for three consecutive years; if a player plays for the same team for three years but under separate 1-year contracts, he does not earn Bird rights. Rookies who fulfill their three-year contracts also earn Bird status.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Pacific Division

LAKERS

Players under contract (9): Tony Battie, Corie Blount, Kobe Bryant, Elden Campbell, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Eddie Jones, Shaquille O'Neal, Sean Rooks.

Unsigned rookies: Sam Jacobsen, Tyronn Lue, Ruben Patterson.

Key free agents: Rick Fox, Mario Bennett.

First order of business: Try to find a taker for Campbell, whose seven-year, $49 million contract has a kicker clause that makes it go even higher if he is dealt.

CLIPPERS

Players under contract (10): Keith Closs, Lamond Murray, Eric Piatkowski, Pooh Richardson, James Robinson, Rodney Rogers, Charles Smith, Maurice Taylor, Stojko Vrankovic, Lorenzen Wright.

Unsigned rookies: Michael Olowokandi, Brian Skinner.

Key free agents: Loy Vaught, Isaac Austin, Darrick Martin.

First order of business: Hire a coach to replace the fired Bill Fitch. The latest leading contender supposedly is assistant coach Jim Brewer.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Players under contract (10): Muggsy Bogues, Bimbo Coles, Erick Dampier, Tony Delk, Duane Ferrell, Adonal Foyle, Todd Fuller, Donyell Marshall, Felton Spencer, Latrell Sprewell.

Unsigned rookies: Antawn Jamison.

Key free agents: Jim Jackson, Jason Caffey, Clarence Weatherspoon.

First order of business: Work out a trade of Sprewell before he shows up at training camp to be coached by P.J. Carlesimo.

PHOENIX SUNS

Players under contract (5): Mark Bryant, Jason Kidd, Danny Manning, Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells.

Unsigned rookies: Pat Garrity, Toby Bailey.

Key free agents: Antonio McDyess, Rex Chapman, Hot Rod Williams, Cliff Robinson, Dennis Scott, George McCloud, Marko Milic.

First order of business: Find out a way to spend about $17 million in cap room, including whether it's a good risk to sign Scottie Pippen after he underwent back surgery.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Players under contract (9): Stacey Augmon, Kelvin Cato, John Crotty, Brian Grant, Jermaine O'Neal, Isaiah Rider, Carlos Rogers, Rasheed Wallace, Walt Williams.

Unsigned rookies: None.

Key free agents: Damon Stoudamire, Arvydas Sabonis.

First order of business: Take care of both free agents and explore the possibility of trading Grant since Wallace plays the same position.

SACRAMENTO KINGS

Players under contract (6): Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Terry Dehere, Lawrence Funderburke, Chris Robinson, Predrag Stojakovic, Chris Webber.

Unsigned rookies: Jason Williams, Jerome James.

Key free agents: Corliss Williamson, Michael Stewart, Billy Owens, Olden Polynice, Anthony Johnson.

First order of business: Webber's old college coach, Steve Fisher, will be an assistant coach. Many curious to see a Williams-Stojakovic backcourt as the post-Richmond era begins.

SEATTLE SUPERSONICS

Players under contract (6): Vin Baker, Hersey Hawkins, Jim McIlvaine, Gary Payton, Detlef Schrempf, Aaron Williams.

Unsigned rookies: Vlamimir Stepania, Rashard Lewis, Jelani McCoy.

Key free agents: Dale Ellis, Sam Perkins, Greg Anthony, Jerome Kersey.

First order of business: Begin the post-Karl era, with Paul Westphal stepping in as coach to replace a former coach who was popular with the players and fans.

Midwest Division

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Players under contract (10): Chris Antsey, Shawn Bradley, Hubert Davis, Michael Finley, A.C. Green, Steve Nash, Robert Pack, Khalid Reeves, Erick Strickland, Samaki Walker.

Unsigned rookies: Dirk Nowitzki, Ansu Sesay.

Key free agents: Cedric Ceballos, Eric Riley, Kurt Thomas.

First order of business: Clear up the logjam at point guard by trying to find takers for Pack and/or Reeves so that Nash can play most of the minutes at that position.

DENVER NUGGETS

Players under contract (7): Danny Fortson, Dean Garrett, Bobby Jackson, Priest Lauderdale, Bryant Stith, Nick Van Exel, Eric Williams.

Unsigned rookies: Raef LaFrentz, Ryan Bowen, Tremaine Folkes.

Key free agents: LaPhonso Ellis, Johnny Newman, Cory Alexander, Eric Washington.

First order of business: Introduce new coach Mike D'Antoni to a group of players whose 11-71 record last season nearly broke the NBA record for futility.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Players under contract (4): Hakeem Olajuwon, Brent Price, Rodrick Rhodes, Roy Rogers.

Unsigned rookies: Michael Dickerson, Bryce Drew, Mirsad Turkcan, Cuttino Mobley.

Key free agents: Charles Barkley, Mario Elie, Matt Maloney, Eddie Johnson, Emanual Davis, Matt Bullard, Othella Harrington.

First order of business: Start spending about $15 million in salary cap room, making a heavy pitch to Antonio McDyess.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Players under contract (7): Chris Carr, Bill Curley, Kevin Garnett, Paul Grant, Stephon Marbury, Anthony Peeler, Micheal Williams.

Unsigned rookies: Andrae Patterson, Radoslav Nesterovic.

Key free agents: Tom Gugliotta, Sam Mitchell, Tom Hammonds, Cherokee Parks, Stanley Roberts, Terry Porter.

First order of business: If Marbury can be signed to a long-term contract, if may preclude the Wolves from retaining Gugliotta.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Players under contract (7): Antonio Daniels, Tim Duncan, Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, Will Perdue, Chuck Person, David Robinson.

Unsigned rookies: Derrick Dial.

Key free agents: Vinny Del Negro, Jaren Jackson, Malik Rose, Monty Williams, Willie Burton.

First order of business: Try again to make the Latrell Sprewell trade that was nearly consummated last season before Sprewell was suspended.

UTAH JAZZ

Players under contract (10): Shandon Anderson, Howard Eisley, Greg Foster, Jeff Hornacek, Adam Keefe, Karl Malone, Greg Ostertag, Bryon Russell, John Stockton, Jacque Vaughn.

Unsigned rookies: Torraye Braggs.

Key free agents: Chris Morris, Antoine Carr.

First order of business: Go back to being the team to beat in the West, try to summon some heart if they make it to the Finals again.

VANCOUVER GRIZZLIES

Players under contract (10): Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Pete Chilcutt, Carl Herrera, Bobby Hurley, Sam Mack, Tony Massenburg, Lee Mayberry, Bryant Reeves, Michael Smith, Doug West.

Unsigned rookies: Mike Bibby, Felipe Lopez, J.R. Henderson.

Key free agents: George Lynch, Larry Robinson.

First order of business: Try to soothe the feelings of Bibby, who did not want to be sent north of the border. Use cap room to entice someone, anyone, to the league's most remote outpost.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlantic Division

BOSTON CELTICS

Players under contract (11): Kenny Anderson, Dana Barros, Bruce Bowen, Andrew DeClercq, Pervis Ellison, Travis Knight, Walter McCarty, Ron Mercer, Greg Minor, Antoine Walker, Dontae' Jones.

Unsigned rookies: Paul Pierce.

Key free agents: Popeye Jones, Zan Tabak.

First order of business: If the new labor agreement makes Walker a free agent at the end of the season, the Celtics won't want to pay him $100 million and are expected to package him in a trade with two or three high-contract players.

MIAMI HEAT

Players under contract (8): P.J. Brown, Duane Causwell, Tim Hardaway, Voshon Lenard, Dan Majerle, Jamal Mashburn, Terry Mills, Alonzo Mourning.

Unsigned rookies: Corey Brewer.

Key free agents: Keith Askins, Brent Barry, Marty Conlon, Eric Murdock, Mark Strickland.

First order of business: Before beginning Camp Riley, try to pull off a trade to find another scorer.

NEW JERSEY NETS

Players under contract (10): Michael Cage, Sam Cassell, Brian Evans, Chris Gatling, Kendall Gill, Lucious Harris, Kerry Kittles, Don MacLean, Rony Seikaly, Keith Van Horn.

Unsigned rookies: None.

Key free agents: Jayson Williams, Sherman Douglas.

First order of business: Come to Williams with a lucrative offer or risk offending him and then losing him. Try to lock up Kittles.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Players under contract (10): Marcus Camby, Chris Childs, Terry Cummings, Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, Chris Mills, John Starks, Buck Williams.

Unsigned rookies: Demarco Johnson, Oded Kattash.

Key free agents: Charlie Ward, Chris Dudley, Herb Williams.

First order of business: Re-sign Ward, who could be courted by the Toronto Raptors, or make a trade for another point guard.

ORLANDO MAGIC

Players under contract (5): Nick Anderson, Horace Grant, Penny Hardaway, Charles Outlaw, Johnny Taylor.

Unsigned rookies: Keon Clark, Michael Doleac, Matt Harpring, Miles Simon.

Key free agents: Derek Strong, Gerald Wilkins, Darrell Armstrong, David Benoit, Kevin Edwards, Derek Harper, Danny Schayes.

First order of business: Decide if Hardaway and coach Chuck Daly will ever get along. If not, trade Hardaway.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Players under contract (6): Allen Iverson, Aaron McKie, Anthony Parker, Eric Snow, Tim Thomas, Scott Williams.

Unsigned rookies: Larry Hughes, Nazr Mohammed, Casey Shaw.

Key free agents: Derrick Coleman, Theo Ratliff, Joe Smith, Mark Davis, Benoit Benjamin, Brian Shaw.

First order of business: Re-signing Ratliff is the first priority, and chances of keeping Smith at an affordable price have increased.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Players under contract (8): Calbert Cheaney, Juwan Howard, Tim Legler, Tracy Murray, Mitch Richmond, Otis Thorpe, Chris Whitney, Lorenzo Williams.

Unsigned rookies: Jahidi White.

Key free agents: Rod Strickland, Gheorghe Muresan, Darvin Ham, Harvey Grant, Ben Wallace, God Shammgod, Terry Davis.

First order of business: If rumors are true that Strickland has fallen off of other teams' wish lists, he can be re-signed at a reasonable cost. Figure out who plays the pivot.

Central Division

ATLANTA HAWKS

Players under contract (4): Mookie Blaylock, Ed Gray, Dikembe Mutombo, Steve Smith.

Unsigned rookies: Shammond Williams, Roshown McLeod.

Key free agents: Christian Laettner, Alan Henderson, Tyrone Corbin, Eldridge Recasner.

First order of business: Must re-sign Henderson, who took over Laettner's starting spot midway through last season and averaged 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Players under contract (6): B.J. Armstrong, Anthony Mason, Bobby Phills, J.R. Reid, Glen Rice, David Wesley.

Unsigned rookies: Ricky Davis.

Key free agents: Vlade Divac, Matt Geiger, Dell Curry.

First order of business: Must re-sign one of its two free agent centers and reach an understanding with Mason about getting along with the coach.

CHICAGO BULLS

Players under contract (4): Keith Booth, Randy Brown, Ron Harper, Toni Kukoc.

Unsigned rookies: Maceo Baston, Corey Benjamin, Cory Carr.

Key free agents: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, Steve Kerr, Scott Burrell, Jud Buechler, Dickey Simpkins, Bill Wennington.

First order of business: The world waits to hear from Jordan on whether he'll retire or return to go for a seventh title. If Jordan comes back, then the question is whether Pippen and Rodman will join him.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Players under contract (9): Derek Anderson, Danny Ferry, Cedric Henderson, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Shawn Kemp, Brevin Knight, Wesley Person, Vitaly Potapenko, Bob Sura.

Key free agents: Carl Thomas.

First order of business: Only need to fill out the final few spots on the roster and see if this young team, with Derek Anderson and Bob Sura healthy, can win.

DETROIT PISTONS

Players under contract (8): Grant Hill, Lindsey Hunter, Eric Montross, Charles O'Bannon, Scot Pollard, Don Reid, Brian Williams, Jerome Williams.

Unsigned rookies: Bonzi Wells, Korleone Young.

Key free agents: Jerry Stackhouse, Malik Sealy, Grant Long.

First order of business: Figure out if Stackhouse is retainable, then pick up a power forward such as Tom Gugliotta, Matt Geiger or Derrick Coleman.

INDIANA PACERS

Players under contract (9): Austin Croshere, Antonio Davis, Dale Davis, Mark Jackson, Derrick McKey, Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Jalen Rose, Haywoode Workman.

Unsigned rookies: Al Harrington.

Key free agents: Rik Smits, Travis Best, Mark West, Fred Hoiberg.

First order of business: Take care of Smits, who made $4 million last season in the final year of a five-year contract.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Players under contract (10): Ray Allen, Terrell Brandon, Michael Curry, Armon Gilliam, Tyrone Hill, Jerald Honeycutt, Ervin Johnson, Andrew Lang, Elliot Perry, Glenn Robinson.

Unsigned rookies: Robert Traylor, Rafer Alston.

Key free agents: None.

First order of business: Move into the George Karl era and play a Sonics-type style, finally learning if Glenn Robinson will play defense.

TORONTO RAPTORS

Players under contract (10): Chauncey Billups, Dee Brown, Doug Christie, Tracy McGrady, Charles Oakley, Reggie Slater, John Thomas, John Wallace, Kevin Willis, Sharone Wright.

Unsigned rookies: Vince Carter, Sean Marks, Tyson Wheeler.

Key free agents: Gary Trent, Oliver Miller, Alvin Williams.

First order of business: Decide if they want to trade Oakley and Christie immediately or wait until the deadline, whenever that may be.

- Associated Press

CAPTION(S):

8 Photos, 3 Boxes

PHOTO (1--2--Color) Portland basketball fan and radio station employee Marty Anderson, above, can go home now after living on the billboard for 65 days waiting for the lockout to end; at right, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, facing the media in New York after the deal is reached, can go back to work now.

Stuart Ramson and Don Ryan/Associated Press

(3) Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal runs into a happy fan on the streets of New York as he arrives at the General Motors building.

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

REACTION

(4--Color) ``I don't think the owners wanted to end the season, and we didn't want it to end. But sometimes people are forced into situations that compel you to do things against your best interests.''

- Union director Billy Hunter

(5--Color) ``I expect the agreement to be ratified by the board of governors at tomorrow's meeting. I will say that I am elated that we will be playing basketball this season.''

- NBA commissioner David Stern

(6--Color) ``It's fair enough and we have to accept it. We couldn't cancel the season. Obviously there's been some damage done to the game. . . Some of the fans are going to be mad. But you can't worry about that.''

- Charles Barkley

(7--Color) ``We can't put a bandage on what both sides have done. We must sew it up in the 40 or so games remaining and let the fans fall back in love with the game. Let us fall back in love with it.''

- Terry Cummings

(8--Color) ``I think I lost a lot of money on my contract. But, hey, how much money does one person need? That's what it all comes down to.''

- Jayson Williams

BOX: (1) A COMPROMISING SITUATION (see text)

(2--Ran on Page 4) WESTERN CONFERENCE (see text)

(3--Ran on Page 4) EASTERN CONFERENCE (see text)

Associated Press
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 7, 1999
Words:3642
Previous Article:DELAYS OF GRAYS OVER SOON.
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