Collective bargaining talks scheduled for next week

PHOENIX -- NBA commissioner David Stern called the NHL labor
impasse "very sad" and said he was hopeful there will be progress
in meetings next week on a new collective bargaining agreement in
professional basketball.

Stern, speaking before Game 1 of the Phoenix-Dallas Western
Conference semifinal series, said he talks regularly with NHL
commissioner Gary Bettman, a former top official in the NBA.

"I have a great deal of empathy for him," Stern said,
"because in 1998 we needed a system change and we sat out half a
year. It cost our players $400 million, but we got the system
change. I have no doubt there will be a system change in hockey
because it's not a viable economic model."

Stern said the hockey players' union leadership "has cost them
something in the neighborhood of $1 billion."

"It's a big waste of a lot of human capital and a lot of
money," he said. "Eventually, I hope, they'll work it out."

In the NBA labor talks, the two sides met Friday in New York.
Before that, he said he was optimistic a deal could be reached this
summer. He tempered that a bit on Monday, saying he would reserve
comment until players meet in Chicago next Monday, then owners and
players get together next Tuesday.

"If we don't have something positive to report, I'm going to
downgrade my 'optimistic' to 'hopeful," Stern said, "but
hopefully we'll be doing something good next week."

Stern also commented on USA Basketball's decision to put Phoenix
Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo in charge of selecting and developing
the men's team to compete in the world championships next year and
the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

However, Stern said he didn't believe there was a problem with
the makeup of the team that won only a bronze medal last year in

"To me the problem was not the selection of the team," he
said, "it was the time they spent together."

Colangelo wants players to make a two-year commitment leading up
to the Olympics to allow proper preparation.

Stern criticized comments by Ray Allen of Seattle that the
players should be paid if they are to spend that much time on the
U.S. team.

"That's not fair to all the great NBA players who have given up
their summers and longer to represent their country," Stern said.

Stern presented Suns point guard Steve Nash with the league's
most valuable player trophy at center court before the game.