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The 11th-hour agreement between the NBA and its players' union sounds good to retired Utah Jazz player Mark Eaton, the club's former player representative who is still vitally involved with such issues.

It is an agreement, Eaton guesses, that should appeal to both owners and players and could be ratified by the players "within a week.""I think it's something that will be agreed upon by owners and players. I think it will be a good deal. I think it will be fair and keep everything in place," said Eaton,

who thinks players will approve the new deal because it does away with the so-called luxury tax that would heavily penalize teams that exceed the salary cap and because it will allow some movement above the salary cap for free agents.

"The luxury tax was the big sticking point for the decertification movement," Eaton said of the group of players who were trying to dissolve the union. Eaton thinks they will be appeased.

"This is good for basketball. Everyone can get back to work," he said.

"The biggest thing I'm excited about as a retired player," added Eaton, "is that there is going to be the extra licensing money coming to the association now." That was part of the original agreement this summer and Eaton speculates it will remain. The deal would bring $25 million to implement programs for retired players.

Though there seemed little movement toward the NBA/players union agreement earlier Tuesday, when the players were meeting without an appointment with league executives, the announcement just before 10 p.m. MDT Tuesday did not surprise Eaton. "Fortunately, most of the parties saw the sense in ending this before it got to be a big mess," said Eaton.

It didn't surprise him, either, that the Jazz's Quiet One, guard John Stockton, was in New York to be part of the last-minute players' meetings. Stockton was shown on television Tuesday night standing behind players' union president Buck Williams of the Portland Trail Blazers. Jazz guard John Crotty, the team's current player rep, was also in New York, standing behind NBA commissioner David Stern as the announcement of the agreement was made.

"I've had some conversations with John (Stockton) in the past few weeks," said Eaton, "and he's become increasingly concerned about the state of affairs and has become intimately involved in the negotiations. He's had many conversations with Simon (Gourdine) and Buck. I was not surprised to see him there.

"It's a new role for him, that's for sure," said Eaton.

"But when the realization comes around that the season might not be happening, you find more guys getting involved, and this summer there were more players involved in this than there has been in a collective bargaining process in a long time."

Eaton speculated that the proposed agreement should please Jazz forward Karl Malone, an outspoken critic of those who backed decertification or otherwise threatened the season. "He just wants to play basketball," Eaton said.

Eaton assumed Jazz owner Larry H. Miller is also relieved that a 1995-96 season might proceed uninterupted. Miller is, of course, still paying off his loans on the Delta Center.

"Larry runs a tight ship and is pretty dependent upon cash flow," Eaton said.

A disrupted season "would have been disastrous for everyone from Larry to the parking-lot operators," Eaton says.