Spurs en route to gym

It’s beginning to seem a lot like NBA season.

Permitted by the NBA to resume upgrading the roster, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and his staff spent most of Wednesday working the phones, talking to agents to gauge the interest of potential free-agent signees on Dec. 9.

“This was like the July 1 of (a normal) free-agency period,” Buford said. “We had a big group in the office making a lot of calls.”

This morning the Spurs’ practice gym will open to players, and head athletic trainer Will Sevening will be on hand.

Whether any Spurs show up to work out, put up shots or play pick-up games remains to be seen.

“We’re still not allowed to talk to players,” Buford said, mentioning that the NBA lockout continues despite the tentative deal reached Saturday. “We don’t even know who is, and isn’t, in the area.”

Matt Bonner, the Spurs forward who served on the players union’s executive committee during months of negotiations, plans to be at the facility by Sunday, along with a majority of his teammates.

“I’m definitely excited to get back on that practice court in San Antonio with the guys and start preparing to try and win a championship,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of the guys. Most of them will be back by this weekend. A few more will be there early next week, and everyone is definitely happy to be getting back on that court and looking forward to playing NBA basketball again.”

Though a new collective bargaining agreement remains a work in progress, the NBA gave teams the go-ahead to unlock facilities that have been off-limits to players since the league locked them out July 1.

Spurs players will have to get physical exams and sign waivers absolving the team from responsibility for injuries before they can use its facilities.

The Spurs’ new strength and conditioning coordinator, Matt Herring, and his staff will be allowed to assist with weight-training equipment, but the training and conditioning staffs are prohibited from supervising workouts.

Executives and coaches are forbidden from observing player activity until the lockout officially is ended.

Meanwhile, most NBA players on Tuesday received official recertification cards from the trade association that has represented them in negotiations to settle the anti-trust lawsuits filed by player plaintiffs. The National Basketball Players Association disbanded Nov. 14 after negotiations broke down. Included with the cards: FedEx envelopes for returning the signed cards quickly.

At least 260 signed cards in favor of reforming the union must be received by the American Arbitration Association by the close of business Thursday to allow negotiations on a formal CBA to continue.

Bonner said faxed copies of the signed cards will be counted, as will electronically submitted cards, pending receipt of the original cards.

The formal CBA must be ratified by both the players and owners before the projected opening of training camps Dec. 9.

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