NBA season in jeopardy

By The Columbia Chronicle

Rob Steva

Sports Editor

Be aware.

Last week the league gave its first indication that the 1998-99 season may not start on time. They announced that training camps scheduled for Oct. 6, and the first week of exhibition games through Oct. 16, have been canceled.

It started with the players’ lockout, and now the struggle between players and the league has taken another turn for the worst. The players say that even though they’re locked out, they should still be paid if they have guaranteed contracts. There are about 220 players with nearly $800 million in guaranteed salaries and about 200 free agents. Team owners present a different opinion, stating that the players agreed to both the repercussions that allowed the league to terminate the labor contract, and the law which gives them the right to cancel training camps. Both sides, the league and the players’ union, await an arbitrator’s decision which must be made by Oct. 18.

However, the league has said that it will challenge, in federal court, the arbitrator’s right to make a decision because it claims that the arbitrator’s term, which has no labor agreement, has expired.

If the players’ union should lose, union officials say they are prepared with a “strike fund.” Players have been told not to expect to play until December or even January pending the outcome.

The regular season is scheduled to open on Nov. 3. Should a delay occur, it will be the first time in NBA history that games are missed as a result of labor differences. Be aware.

It seems that the pieces are now falling into place and basketball could suffer the same way baseball did in 1994-95. However, one man holds the final piece to that puzzle: Michael Jordan. Fans, players, owners, and especially league officials, be aware. A strike could make Jordan’s decision not to return that much easier.

So, David Stern, sit back and think about this: Right now you’re without players and your season is in jeopardy of being cancelled, but more importantly, you run the risk of forcing the greatest player the game has ever seen into retirement. Surely you don’t want to go down in history as the man who ended the story-book career of Michael Jordan.