Sounds like that pinstriped, tobacco-chewing baseball crowd, right? Or maybe those helmeted blade-runners on ice?
Try, instead, the short pants and hightops set.
That's right, with training camp due to begin a week from Friday, the NBA may be close to joining the pro sports labor battleground.
Late last week, one watchword of strife started tripping off everyone's lips: lockout. Yesterday, 76ers owner Harold Katz cautiously addressed the issue.
"Anything is possible," said Katz, who sits on the owners' labor relations committee. "I'm hopeful that it just doesn't come to that, but that's a possibility. And it's possible that that won't come to pass, either. I don't want it to happen under any circumstances. I'd like to have the union sit down and discuss the situation with us, to negotiate. But they won't do that."
The NBA, the only major pro league that has never had a strike or lockout, raised this possibility on its own last week.
The owners and players have not met face to face since the collective- bargaining agreement expired in June. The players have been to court twice in three months trying to challenge the legality of the draft, the salary cap and restricted free agency.
The players lost the first challenge. Their second court appearance was Thursday, before a federal appeals panel in New York. The three-judge panel could take up to six weeks to rule, but the NBA may pass judgment before that.
"Our plan is to open training camps," deputy commissioner Russ Granik told a Chicago newspaper late last week, "but if, ultimately, the union won't talk to you, it's tough to rule out any possibilities you might have to consider down the road."
The players have said they don't want to negotiate while the matter is under litigation.
To be sure, the two sides have passed this way before and avoided any interruption of the sport. But, Katz said, starting a season without a contract was easier in the past because negotiations were ongoing.
"This is different," Katz said. "To not have meetings scheduled, to not have conversation, that's been their stand from the beginning. Anything that has any restrictions involved they won't discuss."
Thanks to the baseball impasse, the whole labor relations climate in pro sports is skewed, too.
"What's happening in sports right now is something nobody understands," Katz said.
Of course, Gary Bettman, the former NBA administrator now heading the NHL, has vowed to postpone the ice hockey season if no labor deal is reached between the owners and players in that sport. Bettman said he learned that lesson from baseball, which paid its players more than half a season in salaries, better permitting them to afford a strike. Katz said he heard Bettman's logic.
"Maybe that is the right lesson," Katz said. "I don't know at this stage. I hope we don't have to find out."
Barring an early court ruling, the next date to watch is Oct. 5, two days before the start of training camp, when the owners meet in New York.
TRADE WINDS. In the Sixers' ongoing battle to find money to sign three rookies, Katz raised another delicate issue yesterday, that of trading a veteran.
Until now, Katz had concentrated on restructuring the contracts of veterans Jeff Malone and Johnny Dawkins as a means of freeing money for this season. However, now that Malone and Dawkins have agreed in principle to defer parts of their salaries this season, it looks as though the money saved still might not be enough to sign rookies Sharone Wright, B.J. Tyler and Derrick Alston.
So Katz is calling other teams in attempts to trade a player for a draft choice, thereby opening more space under the NBA cap.
"We're talking to various teams," Katz said. "So far, there's no trade at this moment."
Katz wouldn't say which player he was shopping, but speculation centers on point guard Dana Barros, who is a restricted free agent. The Sixers tendered Barros a qualifying offer of approximately $950,000 on July 1, and have indicated that they don't plan to raise it.
Barros' situation was considered to be on the back burner because the team can spend what it pleases to re-sign him and Clarence Weatherspoon after the rookies are signed and the salary cap is reached. The NBA allows the cap to be breached only when a team is re-signing its own restricted free agents.
In the last week or so, however, the Sixers have been pushing for Barros to sign, according to sources. The assumption is that having Barros, 27, under contract would be the best trade bait the Sixers could have, because Dawkins, who turns 31 tomorrow, and Malone, 33, are more expensive and older. Also, Barros will become a little more valuable as soon as the league rubber-stamps its proposal to shorten three-point shots to a uniform 22 feet. And the Sixers would be looking only for a draft choice in return.
Of course, another team could sign Barros to an offer sheet for better than $950,00 at any time, but the Sixers would have the right to match that within 15 days.
Count the Atlanta Hawks among a few teams whose salary-cap profile and team needs make a deal for Barros possible.