Sunday, February 9, 2003

NBA notebook

Playoffs' 1st round to be best-of-seven

The Associated Press

ATLANTA - The first round of the NBA playoffs will switch from best-of-5 to best-of-7 this season under a tentative deal between the players' union and the league, The Associated Press learned Saturday.

The union and a handful of owners reached the agreement in talks during All-Star weekend. The sides also agreed to meet this summer to begin discussing an extension of the collective bargaining agreement that will expire after the 2003-04 or 2004-05 season.

The switch to a best-of-7 format was expected to be announced Saturday night at commissioner David Stern's annual All-Star news conference.

A source within the league with knowledge of the agreement, speaking on condition of anonymity, outlined the terms of the deal to the AP:

The playoff pool, to be divided among players on teams that qualify for the postseason, will rise by $750,000 to $8.75 million this season. It will go to $8.875 million in 2003-04 and $9 million in 2004-05.

Veterans with at least four years of experience will not be required to report for the first three days of training camp next season, and the first five days of training camp in the two subsequent seasons.

Teams will be prohibited from holding two-a-day practices after the 10th day of training camp.

Previous talks between the league and the union failed to produce an agreement on expanding the first round of the playoffs, which have been best-of-5 since 1984.

The change means that all four rounds of the NBA playoffs now will be best-of-7.

The agreement still must be approved by the 29 NBA owners, but that is considered a formality.

Owners also must decide by Dec. 15 whether to exercise an option in the collective bargaining agreement that would extend it through the 2004-05 season.

FROM FOES TO TEAMMATES: One of the fascinating aspects of the All-Star Game is watching players who compete against each other join the same team.

Dallas guard Steve Nash says it's hard to look at the other All-Stars as teammates. Earlier this week, Nash and the Mavericks lost a one-point game to Sacramento, and nearly a month ago, the Kings beat Dallas by 29.

Nash will play with Kings guard Peja Stojakovic in today's All-Star Game.

"It's strange to be on the same team, and usually we're trying to kill each other," Nash said. "But that's why it's fun to change it up, as least for a day."

That was obvious during the West practice Saturday. Kobe Bryant spent time talking with Stojakovic, and Phoenix teammates Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion shared a laugh with Houston center Yao Ming.

MASHBURN'S FIRST TIME: New Orleans forward Jamal Mashburn has averaged nearly 19 points in his 10-year career, but he's making his first All-Star appearance.

A former No. 4 pick, Mashburn played in the 1994 Rookie Challenge during All-Star weekend.

"I don't think I was mature enough or ready to make the team when I was a rookie," said Mashburn. "There's a lot that goes into it. You have to be very levelheaded and able to handle all the attention you get.

"At this point in my career, I'm definitely ready for it. I've prepared myself for it."

The All-Star game wasn't the only thing on Mashburn's mind Saturday. Teammate David Wesley was competing in the 3-point shootout later in the day, and Mashburn hoped to have a vested interest.

"We're going to split the money - hopefully, he feels the same way," Mashburn said. "I tried to work with him at practice, but he was kind of reluctant. He didn't want to."

NASH SPEAKS OUT: Dallas' Steve Nash was turned serious when asked about the situation in the Persian Gulf, speaking adamantly against a possible invasion of Iraq.

Nash, from Canada, described his best friend from high school as an "activist." He said they have discussed politics and current events for the past several years.

"I don't believe we should go to war," Nash said.

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