NEWARK, N.J., DEC. 17 -- A federal judge today set the stage for a long legal battle between the NBA and the NBA Players Association by rejecting both sides' requests for a quick judgment on the union's antitrust suit against the league.

U.S. District Court Judge Dickinson Debevoise ruled the expiration of the union's contract does not automatically make pro basketball's college draft, right of first refusal and salary cap subject to federal antitrust laws. He also refused to grant the NBA's motion to dismiss without a trial the suit the union filed on Oct. 1.

The NBAPA, attempting to establish unfettered free agency for its members, charged that the draft, salary cap and offer sheet system effectively prevent NBA players from switching teams and unfairly limit their salaries.

The union had argued that, since the collective bargaining agreement with the league allowing for the practices expired earlier this year, the NBA was automatically returned to the jurisdiction of federal antitrust laws that prohibit businesses from colluding to limit the mobility of employees.

But Debevoise said the so-called labor exemption for antitrust action on items contained in the old contract continues to protect the college draft and other rules until the NBA has reasonable grounds to believe they will not be included in the next contract.