NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA players’ association is upset with the league over a warning it sent teams projecting a significant decrease in the 2010-11 salary cap.

The memo sent early Wednesday morning told teams the salary cap and luxury tax levels are expected to drop, echoing comments commissioner David Stern has made at various times this season.

But the union believes the predictions could discourage teams from offering big deals to free agents, who were eligible to begin signing Wednesday.

“A memo of this nature can have a chilling effect on the market for free agent and rookie signings,” executive director Billy Hunter said through a spokesman. “If it later turns out that the league did not have a good faith basis for making these projections, the NBPA will pursue all available legal remedies, including a treble damages claim for collusion.”

The NBA didn’t consult with the players’ association before releasing the memo, and Hunter said the union has no basis to confirm the projections in it. Lawyers for the league and union had been in contact throughout the week to establish the 2009-10 salary cap, which was set Tuesday night at $57.7 million, about $1 million less than last season.

“The memo speaks for itself and it was issued to give our teams our best, good faith projections,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.

The league had warned teams in February that the 2010-11 figure might be below this year’s, a result of the economic difficulties that Stern said could lead to as much as a 10 percent reduction in revenues next season. The memo Wednesday projects a steeper drop than previously predicted, ranging anywhere from $50.4 million to $53.6 million.

Hunter isn’t sure, arguing that a large portion of next year’s “basketball related income” – a formula which generally includes all income received by teams through basketball operations and is used to set the salary cap – is already committed.

“On various occasions the NBA has publicly speculated on revenue projections for the 2008-09 season that have since been proven inaccurate,” Hunter said. “The salary cap and luxury tax projections for 2009-10 based on these revenue projections have thus likewise been proven inaccurate.”

The summer of 2010 is expected to feature one of the deepest free agent classes in history, possibly headlined by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Half the league could have enough salary cap space to bid on a maximum contract player.

With teams wanting to save money for that group, some players have found it tough to land deals this summer. Former All-Star Allen Iverson remains unsigned, as do productive young players such as Paul Millsap and David Lee.

The NBA and union are expected to begin discussions this month toward a new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal runs through the 2010-11 season.

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