NBA: Progress Made in Talks after 15-Hour Session


NBA club owners and players made progress toward a new contract after a negotiating session of more than 15 hours ended early Thursday morning with positive talk about playing a full season.

As the lockout over money issues stretched into a 119th day, the second marathon session in as many weeks was the second-longest since the shutdown began on July 1 after the old deal between players and team owners expired.

"Progress has been made but to try and measure it, to try to gauge how much and what it means, I believe it's a bit of a stretch," union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers said. "Our system is very complex."

The NBA has already called off the first 100 scheduled games of the season between November 1-14 and league officials are expected to cancel at least the remainder of November's schedule if these latest talks fail.

But both sides expressed hope that if an agreement could be reached within the next few days, there would be a chance to play a full schedule of 82 games for each team despite likely needing four weeks between a deal and the opener.

"Although it might be slim, it's possible if a deal is reached in the next four or five days," Fisher said. "We want to see if we can get a deal done but we're not going to get ahead of ourselves."

Players union executive director Billy Hunter sees an even tighter timeframe to rescue a full season but expressed optimism that it could happen.

"The NBA was approaching the point where they would feel compelled to make another announcement to cancel additional games," Hunter said.

"If there is any hope to complete a full season of 82 games, we have to get together and have a deal by Sunday or Monday. I think it's possible."

Playing a full season would enable players to avoid taking a loss in salary and owners to escape lost ticket revenue and television income despite their four-month feud over $4 billion in annual revenues that has had fans on edge.

"We're not putting a specific date on it but we think we've got to do it soon," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "If we could make a deal, we're partnered with the union to have as many games as we can.

"We're trying to apply a tourniquet and go forward."

Players and owners were finding common ground on salary cap structures and luxury tax figures rather than revenue percentages, the stumbling block that led to a break-off in talks and harsh words last week.

"We did make progress on some significant issues," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.

But complicated moves remain to salvage a season that was to have started next Tuesday.

"We hope to build upon the progress we made," Stern said. "We're not going to talk about the particular progress. Until we have an overall deal, we don't have a deal on anything."

Billionaire owners and millionaire players have been unable to agree on how to divide profits, with teams saying they lost a combined $300 million last season and only eight of 30 clubs are profitable.

Owners want payroll cutbacks and a hard salary cap.

Players made 57 percent of basketball-related income under the previous deal and have offered to accept as little as 52.5 percent, a giveback of more than $1 billion over the length of the 10-year deal the owners seek.

Owners demanded no less than a 50-50 split and talks ended last week when players would not agree.

"I have a pretty good idea what they would like and we will be back to try to reach for them," Stern said.

Players would have less rest between games and long road trips if they try to wedge 82 games per team into five months rather than six. Owners would have arena rescheduling issues to confront.

"We have the sheer volume of games that have to be compressed into back-to-backs that players could be asked to play," Stern said.

This is the first time NBA games have been called off over contract issues since the 1998-99 season was trimmed from 82 to 50 games per club.

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