The NBA continued a history of labor peace Thursday when its players and owners agreed to play the 1994-95 season without interruption while continuing negotiations on a new collective-bargaining agreement.
In stark contrast to the bitter disputes that have shut down major-league baseball and the NHL this year, NBA commissioner David Stern and Charles Grantham, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, made the announcement at a joint news conference in New York. Both men said several issues remain to be resolved before a new agreement is in place, but none were large enough to prevent playing the season.
"The integrity of the game is the victor here," Grantham said. "It's clear we have a long way to go, a long hard negotiation ahead of us. Our players are very concerned about the integrity of the game and a full and complete championship season."
Stern and Grantham held secret negotiating sessions recently but a deal couldn't be finished before next Friday's opening of the regular season.
NBA owners were unwilling to begin the season without an agreement or a no-strike pledge from the players and were to vote on a lockout Monday in New York. Stern and Grantham avoided the vote by turning from negotiating a new agreement to a deal in which the owners pledged not to lock out the players in exchange for the players' agreement not to strike. They agreed late Wednesday.
"The 1994-95 season through and including our finals will be played in their entirety," Stern said.
"I'm very happy," Orlando Magic president Bob Vander Weide said. "Certainly from where we left off last night (Wednesday), both parties got to the table and decided it was in the best interest of all those involved to do it over time and not force this thing into a bad situation. They thought of the fan."
Veteran Jeff Turner, the Magic's assistant player representative, said he didn't care about the factors prompting the compromise, just that one was reached.
"If something happened and the owners locked us out, it would create a lot of animosity, an us-against-them attitude instead of this being a partnership," Turner said. "That causes problems, which is evident from the baseball and hockey situations.
"By agreeing to the no-strike, no-lockout, it says that the owners are saying that maybe there's merit in what we're saying and we're saying maybe there's something there (in the owners' contentions). There's cooperation there."
The NBA has been without a collective-bargaining agreement since the end of the 1993-94 season, and negotiations, which frequently have been played out in front of federal judges, have been contentious at times.
The players have said they want to abolish the salary cap, restricted free agency and the draft, which the owners aren't willing to give up, especially the salary cap, which they credit with saving the financially troubled league when it was adopted in 1983.
_ Staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.