Sides in NBA lockout keep ball spinning

By Brian Mahoney
Associated Press

NEW YORK — After another long day of negotiations, NBA players and owners hammered out plans for another meeting.

That’s not the deal commissioner David Stern wanted, but it’s better than the cancellations that could come if talks fall through.

Both sides seemed to have plenty to talk about. After an eight-hour meeting Wednesday brought their time together to more than 24 hours over two days, federal mediator George Cohen said they would resume bargaining this afternoon.

“Everyone is extremely focused on the core issues, the difficult issues that confront them,” Cohen said.

Talks broke for the night so owners could attend meetings at another hotel. Stern left after seven hours for a presentation on revenue sharing by the owners’ planning committee.

The sides have been divided over two main issues: the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system.

League officials originally said they wouldn’t be available for negotiating Wednesday or today because of their board meetings. Stern wanted to bring a deal to them, saying even the Christmas games could be in jeopardy of cancellation without an agreement Tuesday.

Instead, owners will meet with players again today after their board meeting, the first time during the 111-day lockout they have bargained on three consecutive days.

“The discussions have been direct and constructive, and as far as we are concerned, we are here to continue to help assist the parties to endeavor to reach an agreement,” Cohen said.

Cohen said players and owners met in a variety of settings during mediation. Neither side commented, honoring Cohen’s request to keep the negotiations private.

Without a deal this week, Stern might have to decide when a next round of cancellations would be necessary. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 — 100 in total — have been scrapped, costing players about $170 million in salaries.

Talks resumed Wednesday morning, just eight hours after a marathon 16-hour session. The owners’ planning committee meeting was scheduled for 2 p.m., but that was pushed back until the evening so they could keep talking with players.

After Stern left, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, the league’s lead negotiator, and Spurs owner Peter Holt, who heads the labor relations committee, led the talks with players.

Stern has said owners will have an expanded revenue sharing package among teams once the collective bargaining agreement with the players has been completed.

The union has pushed for it to be part of the CBA discussions, believing better sharing among teams would help owners address what they said was $300 million in losses last season, but Stern said recently he is confident players would approve the owners’ new system.

Players believe owners’ attempts to make the luxury tax more punitive and limit the use of spending exceptions will effectively create a hard salary cap, which they say they will refuse to accept.

Also, each side has formally proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

They talked about a 50-50 split, but the players rejected that, and the league has said it won’t go beyond that number.

Unable to make any real headway in recent weeks on either item, Cohen’s presence was welcomed. He helped try to resolve the NFL’s labor dispute earlier this year.

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