The National Basketball Association begins preparing for another season this week when most teams open training camps. How many players will be around when the regular season starts depends greatly on a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB has yet to give an opinion on a request by the NBA Players' Association to strike down a league ruling setting the roster limit at 11 players, one less than last season.
"We've had the request in for six weeks and we've asked them to expedite it but we haven't heard anything yet," said Larry Fleisher, the association's lawyer.
"We think the league should carry 12 players per team. That's 22 jobs they are wiping out. That's the reason we filed an unfair labor practice charge."
The league contends that 11 men was the minimum agreed to in the pact betyween the association and the NBA. Its statistics show the 12th man on NBA fosters last year averaged three to four minutes a game.
Little movement in the free-agent area is another point that bothers Fleisher. Of 50 players who became free agents after last season, at least 20 will not catch on with teams before the schedule starts, Fleisher said. Another 10 will be thwarted by a breakdown in negotiations with new clubs, he added.
"I had expected another six to eight free agents to sign." said Fleisher. "As long as compensation is around, this is what is going to happen. It's no longer a player's market.
"I would think some players will be more cautious after this and realize they aren't worth what they think they are.But some players got excellent contracts this year, people like Truck Robinson, Bob Dandridge and Jamaal Wilkes."
League commissioner Lawrence O'Brien has settled one compensation case. He awarded Golden State a No. 1 draft choice and $250,000 from the Lakers for signing Wilkes. He is expected to announce soon a decision on Robinson's joining New Orleans from Atlanta.
It took O'Brien 19 pages to explain the Wilkes decision and Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke still thinks he was asked to give up too much.
Fleisher predicted that a few other free agents will sign before league veterans report Friday. Among those still unsigned are Bob McAdoo of New York Jim Cleamons of Cleveland, Sidney Wicks of Boston. Gus Williams of Golden State. Nick Weatherspoon of Seattle and Geoff Petrie of Atlanta, who announced his retirement yesterday.