Six days before the start of its season, the NBA will sit down today in New York with Fred Slaughter, head of the locked-out game officials, for a negotiating session--their second.
The league has barred its refs from working until a new bargaining agreement is reached and is using minor league replacements in two-man crews to officiate exhibition games. A replacement official last week called Shaquille O'Neal for traveling on the play on which Miami's Matt Geiger hacked him and broke his thumb, knocking the Orlando center out of action for six to eight months. Geiger was fined $10,000 and suspended for one game by the league Friday.
The league asked the officials to adopt a no-strike, no-lockout pledge for this season, as the players did in the last one. However, Slaughter notes no deal was reached during the season, whereupon the league locked the players out over the summer.
Management and the officials have met only once, on Oct. 12. The only issue is pay, but the sides are far apart. The referees have asked for a three-year deal, with rookie officials going from the old $68,000 a year to $82,000 this season and $112,000 in two more, a 64% increase. The league has offered a 10% raise this season, across the board, with 5% raises each of the next four seasons.