NEW YORK - The lead negotiator and spokesman for the NBA's referees union said yesterday that a lockout appears "imminent and unavoidable" after the latest breakdown in talks.

Lamell McMorris said the officials made another $1 million in concessions in their proposal but said it appeared the league was not interested in further discussions. The officials then headed home after spending 24 hours meeting.

The contract between the NBA and its officials expired Sept. 1, and the sides have been trying to reach a new two-year deal. McMorris said they largely agree on salaries, but the union has balked at the league's attempt to change retirement benefits.

Without a new deal, replacement officials will be used when preseason play opens Oct. 1.

Jurisprudence. A judge in Santa Ana, Calif., ruled that Kobe Bryant's former housekeeper, Maria Jimenez, can continue her wrongful-discharge case but cannot sue the Lakers star for emotional distress.

Elsewhere. Desmond Mason signed a one-year contract with Sacramento for the league minimum of $1.18 million. . . . Minnesota signed 6-foot-7 Sasha Pavlovic to a one-year deal. . . . New York signed free-agent guard Sun Yue. . . . Miami will retire former guard Tim Hardaway's No. 10 Heat jersey in a ceremony Oct. 28. . . . Juwan Howard signed a one-year contract with Portland.