Basketball owners’ lockout less likely

A recent threat by the national basketball league’s 14-member association of professional basketball clubs, ESAKE, to walk out and effectively stall competition in reaction to a sports draft bill seemed less likely yesterday after the government promised to meet certain ESAKE demands. After meeting with the association, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos agreed to soften the government’s stance on letter-of-credit demands from clubs as stipulated in the draft law. The government’s original intention was to demand letters of credit from all 14 clubs worth the full amounts of their respective annual budgets as a safeguard for each team’s financial stability. But the culture minister said the level would be reduced to 10 percent. The meeting’s participants agreed to implement a price ceiling on earnings by players and coaches, along the lines of the NBA’s salary-cap system. The minister took the opportunity to make clearer to the 14-member association the stricter legal repercussions should club officials participate in violent acts. Pavlos Yiannakopoulos, the owner of current European champion Panathinaikos, and a pharmaceuticals manufacturer, repeated his decision to sell the team, «having paid all its debts.»