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PLAYERS UNION FACES MIDNIGHT DEADLINE

The NBA players association isn't giving up just yet on a new labor deal.

Facing a midnight deadline for reaching a new collective bargaining agreement or disbanding, the union scheduled an 11th-hour meeting this afternoon to discuss reopening negotiations with the league.Union executive director Simon Gourdine said Monday night he expected 20-25 players to come to New York for the meeting.

Talks with the league broke off Thursday, with no progress made toward resolving the issue of the luxury tax, a salary cap-tightening mechanism the players staunchly oppose.

The union previously set a deadline of Tuesday midnight for getting a new labor deal. If the deadline passes, union president Buck Williams of the Portland Trail Blazers has said the union will agree to decertify, giving in to the wishes of a group of dissident players led by Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing.

Jordan, Ewing and other supporters of decertification want to abolish the union in order to press a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NBA.

Gourdine said the meeting of union officers, player representatives and other players will be to weigh their options and discuss several counterproposals made by the NBA last week.

"We'll have to decide if where we are merits getting together" with the NBA, Gourdine said. "We're out to really hash it out with our players and get a good cross-section of opinion."

NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik didn't rule out reopening negotiations before the union's deadline.

The league, which locked out its players on July 1, has said the lockout would remain in place indefinitely if the union disbands.