NBA talks turn tense, to be continued

By Mike Monroe

NEW YORK — It’s crunch time in the talks aimed at ending the NBA lockout, and some of basketball’s most prominent closers showed up to take their shots at bringing the two sides closer to a deal.

On Friday, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Chris Paul, Elton Brand, Ben Gordon, Andre Iguodala and Baron Davis, along with union president Derek Fisher and the players’ association executive board conferred with all but two members of the NBA’s labor relations committee, which is headed by Spurs owner Peter Holt.

After five hours of talks that included moments of tension and rancor, the superstars had made no tangible difference in a labor dispute that has entered its third month.

They had, however, shown the owners they would stand up for themselves and their union leadership.

According to a sourced report by’s David Aldridge, Wade stood up to NBA commissioner David Stern during a side meeting that did not involve all members of both groups. Angered that Stern had been pointing at him, Wade ordered Stern to stop, saying, “I’m not your child.”

Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter conferred, and after an apology was issued to Wade, the talks resumed.

Fisher clearly appreciated such support.

“Some of our guys standing here right now have been questioned in terms of their commitment to this process, to the players’ association and to the game,” he said, the stars and executive board members standing behind him at a news conference. “Their presence here today .?.?. says a lot. These guys have always been here with us in spirit. They’ve always been here with us in terms of the cause. They’ve been with us in concerns and recommendations.”

Ultimately, when Friday’s meeting ended, the two sides were no closer to a deal than when the day began. But after the day’s tension, an agreement to continue the process today, with hints the talks could continue all weekend, was deemed a good sign.

“At least we’re meeting tomorrow,” said Spurs forward Matt Bonner, a union vice president and member of the negotiating committee. “That’s a silver lining. Just as Derek said, we want to get a deal done and we’re going to keep working at it and try to get there. No progress, per se, was made today, but nobody stormed out and refused to talk.”

Nevertheless, against a backdrop that this weekend’s meetings carried what Stern called “enormous consequences,” Friday’s session seemed anti-climactic.

Fisher, the Lakers point guard, said the talks had been “engaging” and called the participation of the prominent players very meaningful, but admitted no progress had been made toward an agreement that might end the lockout imposed by the owners the moment the old collective bargaining agreement expired on July 1.

“We discussed a lot of different ideas — concepts, system issues, economics, a little bit of everything,” he said. “We did not come out of here with a deal today. We will be back tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue to discuss.

“Overall, we felt like this … was not a waste of time.”

Deputy commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged there was little likelihood a deal could be reached by the end of the weekend — “I think just the number of hours in the day, I’m not sure if we can complete a deal this weekend,” he said — but Stern insisted failure to do so this weekend would not mean the entire 2011-12 season might be canceled.

“Whatever the eventuality is, the idea that we would at an early stage cancel the season is … ludicrous,” he said.

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