The NBA, unable to get a new labor agreement, is on the verge of locking out players on Saturday.

"I really think that tomorrow at midnight we'll have our first work stoppage in the NBA, barring unforeseen developments," Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller said Thursday on KISN radio in Salt Lake City.NBA commissioner David Stern and union head Simon Gourdine met for four hours Thursday. A few miles away, the lawyer for players trying to decertify the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the league in an effort to stop bargaining.

Meanwhile, the head of the National Labor Relations Board's New York office said the agency may seek an injunction to stop the antitrust suit filed Wednesday by Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and five other players in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

The no-lockout, no-strike deal agreed to last Oct. 27 expires Saturday, and owners appear ready to lock out the players - stopping all contract negotiations - rather than continue signings under the expired collective bargaining agreement.

Stern had no comment on the lockout plans or the unfair labor practice charge.

"If the players continue down their path, they are taking us exactly down the road baseball and hockey went down," Miller said.

Baseball has gone through eight work stoppages since 1972, most recently a 232-day strike that wiped out the World Series last fall. NFL players have struck four times - including two preseason stoppages - and the NHL has had a strike and a lockout in the past three years.

Gourdine, union president Buck Williams and seven other players met for four hours with NBA officials, the first talks since last Friday, when the union's executive board refused to ratify the deal Gourdine and Stern agreed to two days earlier.

"We mentioned to the commissioner that our players were concerned about the so-called luxury tax," Gourdine said.

Under the proposed six-year deal, teams which go over their salary cap by re-signing players would have to pay a luxury tax of 50 percent on the amount over the cap next season and 100 percent after that. The star players and their agents think the tax would slow the rise in salaries.

To stop the deal, the dissidents began the legal process of decertifying the National Basketball Players Association and shifting the fight to an antitrust suit. Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer for the dissidents, claims 180 of the league's 324 players support his side.

Kessler says that because a majority of players have renounced the union, bargaining must cease. He filed the unfair labor practice charge because the league met with union leaders on Thursday.

"I think at this point you'd have to wonder why the union leadership will not join the rest of the players," Kessler said. "I'd like to believe that the players' association realizes a majority of its members have spoken, that it will abide by the majority of its members. If they don't, we'll have the election. And we know we're going to win the election."

The NLRB has scheduled a hearing before field attorney Larry Singer next Wednesday on the decertification petition. Daniel Silverman, the NLRB's New York regional director, will then determine whether to schedule an election.

"There is a presumption that the union continues as the majority representative," Silverman said. "That can be rebutted by an election, by evidence that the union is no longer the majority representative."

On Jan. 24, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled NBA players can't proceed with an antitrust suit as long as they are unionized. Silverman said he may try to "stop or freeze" the antitrust suit for now.

"In a few days, I'll make my recommendation to the general counsel," he said.

Gourdine was pleased with Silverman's statements.

"We intend to continue bargaining," Gourdine said, "because despite what has been filed in court we take the position that we are the exclusive bargaining agent for the players and we will continue to take that position unless and until there is a decertification election and after that election it is shown that we have lost the vote."

The civil war among players has made it virtually impossible for Stern to conclude a deal.

"If what has happened is that the threat of chaos puts more of a pinch on commissioner Stern, one might regard that as helpful," Gourdine said. "We are having what is in effect an internal struggle. That is not helpful. Most of us in the union continue to regard it to be an unfortunate circumstance."