NBA, Players Hopeful Of Avoiding Lockout After Productive Meeting
The NBA and NBPA "expressed hope the league can avoid a lockout" when its CBA expires at the end of this month following a four-hour meeting yesterday in Miami, according to Marc Spears of YAHOO SPORTS. The two sides said that "progress had been made," and league and union reps plan to meet again in Dallas June 7-8. NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said yesterday's negotiations were "much more fluid than we've had in some time." He added, "I’m hopeful. We know the pressure is building. And if anything is going to happen, it’s going to have to happen between now and June 30." NBA Commissioner David Stern said that while the sides "are still 'quite far apart,' there is also enough time to hammer out a deal." Heat Owner Micky Arison, Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, Celtics Managing General Partner & CEO Wyc Grousbeck, Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert and Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss attended yesterday's meeting as league representatives. Hunter was joined by NBPA Exec Committee members Keyon Dooling, Roger Mason Jr. and Maurice Evans (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/1). Both Stern and Hunter said that "more substantive talks are just beginning to form." Hunter: "We talked about our respective positions, something that we hadn’t done before. I think it was productive for that reason. ... The issues are so complex that it just takes time to work through them" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/2). Stern said, "It's still our hope that there may be a deal here to be done. We're going to test it to the limits. If we're wrong, we're wrong. I think Billy feels the same way. On paper, we're quite far apart. The question is whether we're closer than we say we are or whether we can get closer." Dooling said, "It's not going to be a situation where one side just triumphs the other one and just destroys everything. ... We need each other" (NBA.com, 6/1).
HOPE FLOATS: CBS SPORTS' Ken Berger wrote there are "two subtle, but potentially important" reasons for optimism. First, yesterday's session "was in addition to two meetings previously scheduled" for next week, and after a smaller meeting last week in N.Y. during which the players "proposed some new 'concepts' for bridging the enormous gap between the two sides, the dialogue was deemed positive enough to accelerate the talks." Additionally, the "substance of what the players proposed -- though closely guarded by the two sides -- may have opened the door for a breakthrough in the talks." Sources indicated that the players' approach "was designed as a two-pronged solution: 1) an alternative to a hard-cap system that would give the owners another path to reach their goals while maintaining some elements of the current soft-cap system; and 2) a revised split of basketball-related income that would do the same" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/1). Hunter yesterday "wouldn't say if the owners showed any willingness to move off their desire for a hard salary cap, which the players have called a nonstarter." That is "only one of numerous changes owners want to the league's salary structure, and the union has resisted most of them" (AP, 6/1).