The owners of all 23 National Basketball Association teams, or their representatives, will meet today in Chicago to discuss the status of the negotiations with the NBA Players Association.
In addition to Abe Pollin of the Bullets and other members of the NBA's Board of Governors, Commissioner Larry O'Brien and three legal counsels will discuss and probably take a stand on some of the issues.
In an opposite approach to the current National Football League labor talks, the owners are making most of the demands. With the exception of some cost-of-living increases on their benefits, the players are willing to sign a new contract for generally the same terms as the contract that expired in July.
"The big hangup is that the owners are taking a position of taking back all the benefits we've gained since 1967," Larry Fleisher, general counsel of the players association, said. "We started talking in July and haven't had any great success."
The most pressing item on the agenda is the roster limit. In the last contract, the limit went from a maximum of 11 to an option to carry 12 players. Now, the owners are demanding the limit be dropped to 10.
James Fitzgerald, president of the Milwaukee Bucks and this year's chairman of the board of governors, has said he will cut his team's roster to 10. Sam Schulman, chairman of the board of the Seattle SuperSonics, has said his team will carry 11 players.
Bob Ferry, general manager of the Bullets, said that Pollin will vote "in the best financial interest of the league."
Bullets Coach Gene Shue naturally is upset about a possible drop in the player limit. He said he will have enough trouble reducing his squad to 12 players.
"I don't know how they expect us to practice with 10 players," Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham said. "Somebody always has a bump or a bruise and, if one guy sits out, we can't scrimmage."
One problem is that some teams have 11 or 12 players with guaranteed contracts. Ferry also said that the elimination of the 11th and 12th men would not be a big factor in relation to a team's overall salary structure because those players usually are paid near the $40,000 minimum.
Other demands the owners have made include the elimination of all first-class flights, all guaranteed contracts, all contributions to pension funds, medical benefits and life insurance. Their position, according to Fleisher, is that the players are in a better financial position to pay for these benefits.
"They're trying to turn the clock back," Fleisher said. "They want to take back everything we've gained, but I assure you, we're not going to give them up. They're talking about saving $4 to 5 million, but they're spending $65 to 70 million in salaries."