WASHINGTON -- There was Washington Bullets coach Jim Lynam back in his element -- on a basketball court. Pacing from one basket to another he shouted directions, gave brief lessons and even stopped play to offer one of his colorful verbal exchanges.
While the "coaching" Lynam was doing was at a clinic to dedicate a refurbished basketball court, the events over the past few days have him hopeful he'll soon get back to work.
Yesterday the NBA player representatives, by a vote of 25-2, voted to approve the six-year collective bargaining agreement. Coming one day after an effort to decertify the union fail- ed, the league is set to end its lockout if owners approve the deal in a vote that could occur as soon as tomorrow.
"We're happy we can go forward," said Chicago Bulls player representative, Steve Kerr, after the meeting.
And so is Lynam, who had no other choice but distance himself from the team after the league imposed the lockout July 1. A summer in which he had hoped to work with a team that was the worst in the Eastern Conference last season, was wasted by the labor dispute.
"It was frustrating in the early going," said Lynam. "But you just had to get used to the fact that a lockout was in effect. You can't work with the players, you can't talk with the players. It's really tough."
It was equally tough waiting for the results of the vote in which the union had to decide whether to decertify the union. Those votes, counted on Tuesday in the New York offices of the National Labor Relations Board, proved a large victory for the league as the players voted 226-134 to keep the union.
"I was pleased with the numbers -- if it were a national election, you would have to call it a landslide," Lynam said. "But that was only a first step."
The second step was yesterday's approval in Chicago by union representatives who -- while Lynam was teaching the finer points of ball-handling and shooting to youngsters at the recreation center -- overwhelmingly approved the six-year contract.
Now only the owners have to approve the deal. Scheduled to meet early next week, the owners may vote by the end of the week to speed the process.
"We will promptly submit the deal to the owners for ratification, and we hope to have their approval by Friday afternoon," said NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik, in a statement released by the league. "We would be able to lift the lockout and resume normal operations on Monday, September 18."
Which gives Lynam just a few more days before he can start calling players, meeting with them and get a grip on what to expect for the coming season. Once the lockout is lifted, players can start working out at the team's practice facility at Bowie State.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Lynam. "It's been a long summer, and we have a lot of work to get done in a short period of time."
NOTE: Although the player reps voted overwhelmingly to approve the contract, Sacramento's Mitch Richmond is continuing his fight. Richmond has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board questioning whether players were coerced during their decertification vote in the past two weeks.