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Thomas could get involved in dispute

Because the season is less that a week from cancellation, if another meeting between the NBA and union doesn't happen by Monday night, Isiah Thomas might become a significant player in the negotiations, Thomas and four players said Friday night.

Thomas, a former executive director of the union and part-owner of the Toronto Raptors, has been approached by at least 20 players, including Detroit's Grant Hill and the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Staring at a drop-dead date of Thursday, the players want the league's latest proposal put to a vote by union members before the season can be canceled.

Two players said that if Billy Hunter, the union's executive director, doesn't have a voting system set up by Monday night, Thomas is likely to step into the picture before commissioner David Stern recommends to the league on Thursday that the season be canceled.

"That is what the players asked of me when they called," said Thomas, who declined to name the players. "I think there's a system and a process in place that should allow the players to vote on their deal. However, if that process doesn't take place, I'll step up and support them, as they've asked me to."

Asked if the players who have asked for his intervention would attempt to remove the union's leadership if it refused to allow a vote, Thomas said: "I would hope things would not come to that. But if it did and the players asked me to push for a change, again, I'd support them."

Meanwhile, owners finally got a glimpse of the union's latest proposal Friday, but it came through the media.

The day after the union gave the media a sample of the concessions it hopes may end the lockout, league officials had not seen a copy of the proposal.

The players want a meeting to formally submit their proposal, and the league has said only that it would forward it to its labor relations committee with no guarantee of a meeting.

"I have no comment on a proposal that has not been made to the NBA," Jeffrey Mishkin, the league's chief legal officer, said. "They can give us their proposal by any means they choose. If they want to deliver it in person, fine. If they want to mail it or fax it, great. When they deliver it to us, we'll respond to it."

Players on the union's negotiating committee expected to travel to New York early next week to begin a final round of negotiations. It appears that may be delayed until midweek.