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The Biggest NBA Story That Nobody Is Talking About

By 09.21.09

Dick Bavetta

Of all the refs in the NBA, Dick Bavetta is by far my favorite. And not just because he almost beat Charles Barkley in a foot race. But because in his 34 NBA seasons, since 1975, he has never missed an assigned game. Unfortunately for Dick, he may be watching the start of the season this year from his couch at home.

While the threat of a lockout has been on the table for a minute, the NBA announced Friday that they will be holding training camp this week with replacement officials after the referees union, the National Basketball Referees Association, rejected the League’s final contract offer.

“It is extremely disappointing that the NBRA has ignored the economic realities, rejected our offer, and left us with no choice but to begin using replacement referees,” executive vice president and general counsel Rick Buchanan said.

“The proposals we have made to the NBRA are extraordinarily fair and reasonable, given the current economic circumstances. Since late 2008, the league and our teams have made far deeper cuts in non-referee headcount and expenses than we are asking for here.”

With the first preseason game scheduled for October 1 in Utah, the training camp isn’t going to be bringing refs off the streets, but rather pulling them from the D-League, WNBA and the college ranks. While this doesn’t seem that crazy, the NBA hasn’t used replacement refs since early in the 1995-96 season.

With the current economic climate, it seems everyone (including players), are taking pay cuts these days, and according to the NBA, the new deal would have held salaries steady this year and given the refs a slight increase next season, while making some changes to retirement benefits.

The NBA’s statement said the previous deal gave the referees retirement bonuses of up to $575,000, on top of pension benefits that could exceed $2 million. It said that came on top of compensation totaling nearly $150,000 per year for entry level referees and more than $550,000 annually for the most senior referees.

While it’s hard to comment on someone else’s way of life, especially when unions are involved, I’d say the refs should just sign the deal. How many guys in the NBA had to settle this summer for the veteran’s minimum? A bunch. And it was either that or play in the Ukraine. The fact is that with the economy the way it is, signing a two-year deal until things get better won’t be the worst thing in the world.

What do you think?

Source: NBA.com

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