The lead negotiator for the locked-out NBA referees removed himself from the talks Monday in hopes of resolving a dispute that threatens to have replacements on the floor this week, The Associated Press reports.
Lamell McMorris released a statement saying the negotiations with the NBA would be handled by general counsel Brian Lam and the executive board of the National Basketball Referees Association, according to AP.
McMorris said his departure was "in the best interest of the NBA Referees and the league."
The contract between the league and its officials expired Sept. 1 and they have been unable to reach a new deal. The NBA held referees training camp with replacements over the weekend, and those officials could be on the court when preseason play begins Thursday with Denver's game at Utah.
Negotiations have broken down at least twice, and the sides remain apart on the league's proposed changes to the referees' pension and severance packages, as well as a plan to develop younger officials.
NBA commissioner David Stern already took himself out of the negotiations earlier this month following McMorris' criticism of his behavior after he abruptly ended a meeting at league headquarters in New York.
If a deal is not reached, the NBA will use replacements in games for the first time since early in the 1995-96 season.