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NBA locks out normal conversation

Knocking it about on a variety of subjects at midweek:

• It's the strangest of situations these days for employees of NBA clubs, who are walking on eggshells as they go about their business, or non-business.

The league office has prohibited the teams' employees from commenting on players. Employees can talk about team issues, evidently, but not about players.

'There's a line in the sand that the NBA has drawn for everybody, but nobody knows exactly where the line is,' one NBA team employee says. 'Everybody is scared, not wanting to be the first to be hit with a fine.'

Witness a recent interview with Trail Blazers acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. When it was observed that it's too bad there is no summer league scheduled, Buchanan replied, 'Yeah.'

Shortly thereafter, the league threatened Buchanan with a $1 million fine, according to one source. Insanity.

Blazer President Larry Miller was a guest on the team's 'Courtside Monday Night' radio/TV show. He was OK to talk about the general manager search and the permission given to Minnesota to talk to Blazer assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff about the vacant Timberwolves head job, but there was no conversation about players.

Until Yao Ming filed paperwork for his retirement, Houston officials couldn't hold a news conference with the announcement.

Blazer ambassadors such as Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey are prohibited from saying anything about players, too.

Brian Grant - also on the Blazer payroll as an ambassador - can't have current NBA players participate in his upcoming golf event for Parkinson's disease.

The Blazers plan to continue with the Courtside shows weekly through the summer, but it's going to get old reliving the good ol' days and community-service activities. Mike Rice can reminisce about Gene Shue's immense playing talents only so often.

• Big news these days is the number of players considering (threatening) to play in Europe next season.

Two NBA general managers told me a couple of months ago that, in the event of a lockout, free agents could play abroad but those with NBA contracts would be bound by them. Wrong, fellas.

During the 1998-99 work stoppage, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) honored NBA contracts and no players skipped the country to play elsewhere. That's not the case this time.

Asked before the end of the past season, NBA Commissioner David Stern told the media, 'If there is a lockout, the player is free during the course of the lockout to do what he wants to do if his contract is in effect. ... Their contracts are suspended. It's that simple.'

Still, FIBA must issue a letter of clearance to approve players under contract with other pro leagues to compete in its leagues. According to the Associated Press, FIBA officials are expected to soon address the issue.

What happens if a player - Deron Williams in Turkey, for instance - gets hurt playing there? Williams, who reportedly has begun the process of getting insurance in case of injury, risks forfeiting the $34 million remaining on his contract with New Jersey over the next two seasons.

• If the lockout drags on and a number of players leave to play overseas, it could impact the solidarity of the union in its standoff with the owners. By appearance, at least, it makes you wonder if the players will stay together on this.

• Perhaps the players are just posturing about leaving. Oklahoma City's Nate Robinson - a cornerback at Washington for a season - talks about playing pro football. Really?

What next, Ron 'Metta World Peace' Artest becoming a professional wrestler?

• Ex-Blazer Dan Dickau, putting in some broadcasting work these days for KXL (750 AM 'The Game'), is in a peculiar spot. Dickau hasn't yet filed official retirement papers with the NBA, so he is technically still a player.

If Dickau were to attempt to interview a Blazer employee, would the league prohibit it? Would he be allowed on the premises of the Blazer practice facility or the Rose Garden complex?

Who would be subject to a fine were any of this to happen?

• Dickau, incidentally, and wife Heather have filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court against attorneys Robert Mandeville of Newport Beach, Calif., and Richard Oliver of Los Angeles.

The suit alleges breach of fiduciary duty, violation of Oregon securities law, breach of good faith and fair dealing and breach of contract. The Dickaus are asking for $250,000.

'One of them is a former financial advisor, and they led us astray in more than one way,' is all Dickau will say.

• It has been nine years now since Commissioner Bud Selig's decision to give World Series home-field advantage to the winning league in baseball's All-Star Game.

Is there a more illogical idea in all of professional sports?

The result of an exhibition game should have no connection to the ultimate postseason competition. Case closed.

• When I see the Angels' Jered Weaver on the mound, with his hair flying and long body leaning on every pitch, I can't help but think of the late, great Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych.

• Sunday's Timbers-Sounders showdown at Jeld-Wen Field was one of the toughest tickets in town. Face value on the tickets ranged from $12 to $125. In the days leading up to the game, tickets were selling on StubHub from $150 to as much as $1,000.

• The Dayton Dragons of the Single-A Midwest League brought down the Blazers' pro sports record for consecutive sellouts last weekend.

When the Dragons beat South Bend 9-1 before an overflow Fifth Third Field crowd of 8,688, it was their 815th straight sellout. That broke the Blazers' record of 814 sellouts in a row from 1977-95.

Portland, by the way, doesn't have a pro baseball team.

• Most of the top college football prospects in the Northwest, as well as many others throughout the country, will be at Husky Stadium Friday for what is billed as the 'Northwest Premier Marketing Event.'

Dozens of college coaches representing schools at all levels, from Division I to NAIA, will be on hand for the day camp staged by Barton Football Academy - run by former Beaverton High quarterback Taylor Barton.

The top 100 seniors-to-be, as well as 150 underclassmen, from Oregon and Washington have been invited. These are the kind of camps from which many scholarship offers eminate.