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Labor Troubles Brew As Nba Begins Race

Training camps are winding down. Another NBA season will tip-off in two days.

The uncertainty surrounds what will happen next year at this time.

Members of the agents advisory board met with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the Players Association, in New York on Friday. The purpose of the session was to discuss the league’s desire to modify the collective bargaining agreement. Hunter wanted to hear the agents’ perspective and form a negotiating strategy.

Four years remain on the agreement between the league and its players. The owners, however, hold the right to opt out of the deal at the end of this season.

There are strong indications that the NBA will exercise that option in April. Commissioner David Stern acknowledged that probability during the league meetings in Orlando last month. Deputy commissioner Russ Granik said the current system is “out of whack” and concedes there is concern about the league’s inability to curb rapidly escalating costs.

Hunter’s response: “The owners want to revert. They want to put the genie back in the bottle. I think that is going to be very difficult.”

Club officials around the league are braced for the worst. Granik predicts that once the combined financial reports for last season are completed, it will show at least one-third of the league’s 29 teams lost money.

The fact that five players have signed contracts worth more than $100 million in the past 16 months is a red flag.

Kings forward suspended

Sacramento Kings forward Lawrence Funderburke was suspended without pay for one game and fined $2,500 by the NBA on Tuesday for leaving the bench area during an altercation Friday night.

Funderburke, who will miss Saturday night’s regular-season opener at Vancouver, left the bench area when Sacramento’s Olden Polynice and Indiana’s Rik Smits fought in the third quarter of the Kings’ 101-71 road loss.

Shaq to miss game

Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal, still bothered by an abdominal strain, will miss Friday night’s season-opener against Utah.

Blazers shape up

The team that’s acquired the unwelcome nickname “Jail Blazers” will be polishing its image today when players, coaches and front-office personnel fan across Portland to meet with disadvantaged youngsters and play bingo with senior citizens.

Last year, the Portland Trail Blazers were the only NBA team to have total team participation in TeamUp Day, the league’s day dedicated to young people and community service.

This year, the Blazers say they once again expect all players, coaches and front office personnel to participate.