Another lockout? That sucks!

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Two veteran Raptors believe NBA players will be locked out next fall, just like NHL players are locked out right now.

That was the spoken opinion of Lamond Murray and Jalen Rose yesterday. And according to numerous NBA sources, it is the prevailing opinion among pro hoopsters everywhere.

"Oh yeah, there's going to be a lockout," said Murray, who served as the Raptors' alternate union representative last season.

Toronto's player rep last season was union president Michael Curry, but Curry has moved on and the Raptors still have to hold a meeting to select a new player rep.

"I've been through one (lockout) already (in 1998-99)," Murray continued. "I already know what's going to happen. You already know. That would be my prediction."

Rose had a similar viewpoint.

"I don't think hockey has any impact on it," Rose said. "I don't know the nuts and bolts of the hockey dispute. But the NBA is going to lock us out anyway. It's a power struggle."

Officially speaking, the NBA disagrees with the lockout certainty expressed by Murray and Rose.

League representatives were asked yesterday if the NBA wanted to respond to what Murray and Rose had said. The following statement was issued through an NBA spokesperson:

"It is rather premature to be talking about a lockout. We're in negotiations with the players' association and our goal is to make a deal."

The word "lockout" was on a lot of people's lips throughout Toronto yesterday, since the NHL season had been scheduled to begin last night. The NHL and its players' association are not involved in any negotiations presently and few would be surprised if the impasse lasted all season, if not longer.

The NHL basically is pushing for a salary-cap system similar to the one that presently exists in the NBA. How much money NBA teams can spend on player salaries each season is limited to a percentage of overall basketball-related revenue. And there are limits on how much individual players can earn, too, based upon their years of service.

The NBA exercised an option and extended the collective bargaining agreement with its players for a seventh and final season, which ensured labour peace through to next summer. But both sides may be angling for a new fight.

According to sources, one of the contentious issues in the next round of NBA negotiations could be the lengths of contracts offered to individual players. Currently, the maximum length of player contracts is six or seven years, depending upon the circumstances. The league may be looking to reduce it considerably, and the players' association understandably would take issue with such a development.

Murray even suggested yesterday the NBA purposely has initiated increased justification for a lockout by giving lucrative contracts to middle-of-the-road free agents this year.

"You always have outrageous salaries the year before, given to nothing players," Murray said. "Like this summer, go down the list. This person, that person, wow, $50 million, 60 million? The league is setting it up, so they can go, 'See? Salaries are out of control.'

"But hey, it was a great summer to be a free agent."

If the Raptors hope to make gains in Toronto this winter with the Maple Leafs out of commission, it certainly won't help if labour storm clouds start forming over the court, too. But on a wider scale, these matters are far beyond the control of any individual Raptor, or the team's management.

"I think a lot of guys (around the league) know about what's going on," Murray said. "Everybody has expectations about what's going to happen a year from now. Everybody is conscious of it.

"All (players) can do is save their money, if they haven't done it so far, and get prepared for whatever might happen."


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