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NBA locks out refs

The NBA has locked out its referees.

After failing to reach an agreement with its game officials, the NBA will start referee training camp with replacements next week.

Talks ended on Thursday, when the league and NBA Referee’s Association were unable to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement. The NBA will use Developmental League and WNBA officials to start the preseason, and perhaps, the regular season.

“The proposals we have made to the NBRA are extraordinarily fair and reasonable, given the current economic circumstances,” the NBA’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Rick Buchanan said in a league memo. “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.

“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.”

The union believes that the NBA is asking for too many give backs in the league’s current proposal, and voted 57-0 among its officials to reject the NBA’s latest offer.

There are 57 active NBA officials.

The league began contacting replacements last Wednesday, the day after the last face-to-face meeting between the sides in New York, which commissioner David Stern abruptly ended because he said the officials reneged on a previously agreed to proposal.

The contract between the NBA and its officials expired Sept. 1, and the sides had been trying to reach a new two-year deal. They largely agreed on salaries, which would have held steady this year and given the refs a slight increase in the second year, but the union balked at the league’s attempt to change 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 salaries of nearly $150,000 per year for entry level referees and more than $550,000 annually for the most senior referees.

The first preseason game is scheduled for Oct. 1 at Utah. The NBA hasn’t used replacement referees since early in the 1995-96 season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report