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NBA UNION IS IN A RACE AGAINST TIME

The president of the NBA Players Association says a collective bargaining agreement that could help ward off a move to decertify the union could be just a few meetings away.

"It's a race against time," Buck Williams told The Oregonian."I'm very confident we can bring a revised agreement back to the players before the decertification vote takes place," the Portland Trail Blazers forward said. "It's something that can and will be done."

But a leading agent said the move to decertify the union, led by Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, cannot be stopped.

"I think decertification is definite," said Steve Kauffman, a member of the agents' advisory committee that has monitored the collective bargaining negotiations. "If I had to guess, I'd say it will pass with at least 70 to 75 percent vote, and that's probably very conservative."

A majority vote in the decertification election, scheduled for late August or early September, would dissolve the union.

Williams said 10 to 12 members of the union's executive board were part of a negotiating session in New York last week that was "quite productive, but left a lot of work to be done."

He said another meeting tentatively is set for Thursday or Friday.

A new agreement would include a rookie wage scale, but should not include the luxury tax that was the major obstacle to player approval of a tentative deal reached in June.

"I have a mandate from the veteran players for a rookie wage scale," Williams said. "The players have also made it clear to me they want to eliminate a luxury tax. I'm spinning my wheels if I bring that back to them."

Williams acknowledged that the union hasn't got a lot to give back to the league if NBA negotiators back away from the luxury tax.

"But there are some things out there," he said.

Williams said NBA commissioner David Stern emphasized at the last meeting that he wants to work out a deal for the betterment of the game.

"Decertification accomplishes nothing for either side of this thing," Williams said.

Williams said he has received indications that some players originally in favor of decertification now believe the union can work.

"A lot of players are beginning to realize the bag of goods agents are selling them is not what they promised it would be," Williams said. "I've talked to 10 or 12 guys who want to renounce their decertification petition. The tide is beginning to shift."

Kauffman disagrees.

"He is living in a dream world," Kauffman said.