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Stern says June 30th or lockout

Chris Sheridan Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO – David Stern hasn’t yet made his best offer on a new collective bargaining agreement. But once he does, it won’t be on the table for long.

The commissioner addressed almost nothing aside from labor questions Sunday at his annual NBA Finals news conference, revealing several areas where the owners have already altered their offer – including a proposal to raise the minimum age to 19 instead of 20.

Speaking matter-of-factly and exuding little of the pessimism favored by deputy commissioner Russ Granik, Stern said the owners do not want a lockout and are trying to avoid one. But he nonetheless made it clear that if no deal is in place before the current one expires on June 30, the league will shut down.

And if that happens, the owners will pull their current offer off the table permanently.

“If July 1 comes and there is a lockout, the union will have made a mistake of epic proportions,” Stern said. “If we can’t get a deal done, it’ll be a new game.”

He said the sides remain apart on issues of drug testing, an age limit and the maximum length of multiyear contracts, among other issues, although he said that the owners have changed their proposal on contract lengths several times.

Under the current labor agreement, players can sign with their old team for as long as seven years; or six years if they decide to switch teams.

Owners initially asked that those maximums be reduced to four years for players staying with the same team and three years for players changing teams. They have since moved their position to six years and five years.

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