Originally created 12/31/98

Hunter: Players to make their 'final' offer



NEW YORK -- NBA players plan to make their own "final" offer, hoping it will end the lockout before time runs out to save the season.

"I have called David Stern and requested an opportunity to present it to the owners' labor committee as soon as they're available, and certainly before the Jan. 7 date that Stern has set as the owners' deadline," union director Billy Hunter told players Wednesday.

Union president Patrick Ewing said the new proposal should be ready before Friday.

Stern said Monday that if the players brought him something new, he'd present it to his negotiating committee.

In Houston, a federal court judge rejected an injunction sought by Nick Van Exel, Marcus Camby and Reggie Slater for unconditional letters of clearance from the NBA and USA Basketball. The three want to play the rest of the season in Europe -- even if the lockout ends.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake told the plaintiffs they could submit their dispute to an arbitrator, and agent James Bryant said he would do so.

It was not immediately clear where or when such a case would be arbitrated.

Ewing, meanwhile, said the owners' "final" offer -- which the commissioner presented earlier this week -- would not be put to a vote of the general membership unless a majority asked for it.

So far, only a handful of players, including Jayson Williams and Kevin Willis, has openly called for a chance to vote.

"If the majority of the players call up and say they want a vote, then we're bound to vote," Ewing said. "But yesterday we had a conference call and we put the question to them if they want a vote. And as of today, no one has called to demand that we put it to a vote."

Negotiating committee member Jim McIlvaine told players they could call him at home if they wanted to express their concerns privately and anonymously; no one did.

"The committee's job is to do the will of the majority of the players. If we get indications that they would like some proposal voted on, we'd have to follow through on it," McIlvaine said. "But reading about it in the paper or hearing it from an agent doesn't cut it for me. I need to hear it from the players."

The commissioner sent each player a copy of a letter he wrote to Hunter asking for a vote.

"While it is your prerogative to reject our proposal, the consequences of that decision will be so catastrophic to your members that simple fairness suggests they be given a chance to be heard," Stern wrote. "Accordingly, we request and strongly urge that you put the NBA's final offer to a vote of the entire union membership."

Stern's letter, which also was sent to reporters, lists the additional concessions the owners offered last Sunday at a negotiating session in Denver.

Hunter's letter detailed areas where the sides remain in disagreement, including changes to salary cap rules that the union calls a "List of Horribles."

"The negotiating committee and I do not believe the owners have met us halfway yet, and we are not prepared to recommend that you accept this proposal," Hunter wrote.

"It should not be hard to get a deal that makes both sides equally contented -- or discontented. As I have said in recent weeks, we are not very far apart, and the owners' latest offer bridges some of the gaps.

"It is now a matter of sitting down for a last bargaining session where we each can reveal our respective bottom lines and engage in whatever trading may be necessary to get a deal done."

A look at the NBA lockout through Tuesday, Day 183:

TOTAL DAYS OF SEASON MISSED: 57.

GAMES LOST TUESDAY: 7.

TOTAL GAMES MISSED: 388.

EARLIEST ESTIMATED DATE SEASON CAN START: Feb. 1

NEGOTIATIONS: Nothing scheduled.

PROJECTED PLAYER SALARY LOSSES (through Feb. 1): More than $500 million.

WEDNESDAY'S BEST CANCELED GAME: L.A. Lakers at Utah, 8 p.m. EDT, TNT. A rematch of last season's Western Conference finals, which was won by the Jazz 4-0.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We have to get commissioner Stern to give an inch. He has to move. He can't just sit up there in his palace and continue with his arrogant condescending attitude," -- agent Steve Kauffman, a member of the union's agents advisory committee.