Report: NBA, union reached deal on Howard Heat's chances to keep player hurt by agreement

August 12, 1996|By MIAMI HERALD

MIAMI -- The Miami Heat's chances of retaining Juwan Howard were hurt by a secret deal between the NBA and the players union, it was learned yesterday.

In an Aug. 5 agreement obtained by the Miami Herald, the National Basketball Players Association promised the league that it would not challenge NBA commissioner David Stern's rejection of Howard's seven-year, $100.8 million deal with the Heat. In return, the NBA allowed Howard to sign a seven-year, $100.8 million offer with Washington last Monday before arbitrators had a chance to consider the validity of Howard's Heat contract.

The agreement, written by NBA chief legal officer Jeffrey Mishkin and signed by union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, specified that the union "shall not initiate any proceeding seeking to challenge or overturn the Commissioner's disapproval of the Miami/Howard contract . . . and shall not take any position in any proceeding seeking to challenge or overturn the Commissioner's disapproval of the Howard/Miami contract."

It also said any dispute concerning Stern's rejection of the contract "is moot."

Why would the players association accept such a deal? Because the union believed it was protecting Howard's interests. Not only did Howard prefer to play for Washington, but the Bullets were willing to match or improve on the Heat's offer.

Without the union's support, the Heat felt its position in arbitration would be weakened. That's one of several reasons the Heat decided to surrender on Saturday before arbitration.

Heat President Pat Riley, union attorney Ron Klempner and Mishkin all declined to comment.

Pub Date: 8/12/96

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