No tangible progress at NBA meetings

By Mike Monroe

NEW YORK — A weekend of negotiations that NBA commissioner David Stern said contained “enormous consequences” for the 2011-12 season ended Saturday with nothing of real consequence having been accomplished.

The lockout imposed on July 1 by the NBA’s owners remains in place, and union executive director Billy Hunter said the two sides remain “miles apart” in their quest for a new collective bargaining agreement that will get the league up and running again.

Saturday’s seven-hour session was the longest since the start of the lockout. According to Spurs forward Matt Bonner, a member of the union’s negotiating team, both sides were “burned out” by the process and in need of a break, and they will get one today. Talks will resume with a smaller meeting Monday, followed be a larger one Tuesday, with many owners and players again expected to participate.

Despite the lack of progress, no additional cancellations of preseason games have been announced, and Stern promised there would not be another cancellation announcement before Monday’s meeting.

With no tangible progress to report from the long sessions, Stern walked back from his prior pronouncement that the weekend carried big implications.

“I don’t take myself as seriously as you do,” he said. “It’s good we had the players and owners here, and we could vent a lot of things, and it’s good we’re coming back, in part, on Monday, and in full on Tuesday. And it’s good there were lots of players there giving their support to (union president) Derek (Fisher) and seeing how this difficult process works.

“If we didn’t think there was any hope, we wouldn’t be scheduling the meetings, but that is the best I would say right now.”

At the suggestion of Hunter, nearly all the discussions over two days focused on the salary-cap system. The owners have insisted on a hard cap; the players have been just as adamant on retaining the exceptions that make the cap “soft.”

Determining the split of basketball-related income — the players received 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement, while the owners have proposed a system that would hover around 46 percent over the course of their proposed 10-year deal — was tabled in hopes the sides could get closer on the important cap dispute.

They did not.

“I can’t necessarily characterize things as we made progress and that somehow I’m more optimistic than I was yesterday,” said Fisher, a Lakers guard. “The reality is we still have an extremely long way to go with the exchanges that were made today. There are still huge gaps between what we proposed compared to what they proposed, and obviously we still have the economics that are just kind of sitting out there waiting for us to tackle.

“So there’s a lot of work left to be done, and we’ll keep at this.”

By the time the two sides return to the table on Monday, every team will already have lost two days of training camp, and both sides know a point of no return is fast approaching when some regular-season games may need to be canceled.

Stern gave no hint of when that may be — “stay tuned,” he said — but again stressed that things will get more difficult when, and if, such cancellations occur.

“Billy and I … agree on this: Positions harden when regular-season games begin to be lost on top of the exhibition season,” Stern said. “So we’ve been focusing on seeing whether we couldn’t do something.

“They harden because the losses are there. Each side is taking them, and each side thinks they should make up the losses based on the deal that they make, and that makes it quite consequential, in terms of those losses.”

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