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Sides are poised to meet Friday

Talks would be first since lockout began

Wire Services / July 20, 2011

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NBA officials and representatives from the players’ union will hold labor talks Friday, three weeks after the league imposed a lockout.

It will be the first face-to-face negotiations since the owners locked the players out on July 1 following failed talks over how to split money from a league that generated about $4.3 billion in revenue last season.

The meeting at the league office in New York won’t include owners or members of the NBA Players Association’s executive committee, union executive director Billy Hunter, who also will not be in attendance, told Bloomberg News. NBA commissioner David Stern will not be at the meeting.

An e-mail seeking comment from Mike Bass, a spokesman for the NBA, wasn’t returned.

Staff members from both sides also met July 15 to discuss issues not specifically related to the labor negotiations. The discussions this week are expected to center on topics related to the system the two sides are playing under, such as the cap on player salaries.

Following the owners’ 10-year proposal disclosed by Stern on June 21, Hunter said those terms placed the sides more than $7 billion apart.

The last time there was a lockout, in 1998, the sides weren’t able to reach an agreement until the following January, shortening the season from 82 games to 50.

Schedule is set The NBA champion Mavericks will open the season - if it begins on time - at home Nov. 1 against MVP Derrick Rose and the Bulls, then host the Heat in a Finals rematch Christmas Day.

The NBA released its complete 2011-12 schedule despite being in a lockout that could last months and cause it to be scrapped.

If the season begins on time, Utah will host Houston in the Rockets’ first game under Kevin McHale, and Oklahoma City will visit new coach Mike Brown and the Lakers to conclude the opening-night schedule.

It’s unclear what would happen to the schedule if the season is delayed, though it would likely depend on when a deal gets done. The 1998-99 season didn’t begin until February.

Other interesting dates on the tentative schedule include the Magic and Nets playing a pair of games at the O2 Arena March 7-8, the second straight year the NBA is staging regular-season games in London ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

The All-Star break is scheduled for Feb. 24-26 in Orlando. The regular season ends April 18, with the Nets hosting the Bulls in their final game in New Jersey before moving to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season.

Swipe by Shaq Shaquille O’Neal’s debut as a full-fledged NBA analyst had him raving about LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. As for Chris Bosh? Apparently, Shaq’s not a big fan of his work. During NBA TV’s show yesterday to announce the league’s schedule for the 2011-12 season, O’Neal referred to the Heat as having a “Big 2.’’ Since Bosh, Wade, and James teamed up in Miami, they’ve been called the “Big 3’’ in many circles. “The Miami Heat, they’ve got a lot of great players, the ‘Big 2.’ They will be back,’’ O’Neal said when discussing the NBA Finals and how Dallas was able to beat Miami for the title. “LeBron James is taking a lot of criticism, but I know LeBron very well. He hears everything that everyone is saying, so I think he’s going to come back and have an MVP year this year.’’ . . . Yao Ming is likely to make it official today, announcing what is expected to be his retirement from the NBA and a sport that made him a household name in China. The 7-foot-6-inch Rockets center played eight seasons in the NBA, but has missed 250 regular-season games over the past six years. His career, including frequent appearances for the Chinese national team at Olympics and world championships, has included myriad leg and foot injuries.

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