NBA: Talks on New Contract Set to Continue Friday


NBA players and club owners met for more than seven hours on Thursday and planned to return to the bargaining table Friday morning as talks continued toward a new contract and a possible full season.

A dispute between billionaire owners and millionaire players over how to divide about $4 billion in annual revenues led to a lockout July 1 when the old contract expired, a shutdown that reaches 120 days on Friday.

Negotiators were back at work on Thursday, less than 12 hours after a lengthy meeting that centered on salary cap and luxury tax rules but stayed away from the biggest stumbling block, a $100 million gap in how to divide annual income.

The union's lead economist was unable to attend the negotiations before Friday morning, postponing any meaningful progress on money issues until talks resume.

"We hope to build upon the progress we made," NBA commissioner David Stern said.

Stern has already wiped out the first 100 games of a season that was to have started next Tuesday and games between November 15-30 figure to be on the chopping block next if the latest talks break down.

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

Both sides said progress had been made in the session that began Wednesday afternoon and ended Thursday morning, with optimistic comments about the odds of making a deal in the next few days in time to save a full season.

"It's possible if a deal is reached in the next four or five days," union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers said.

If every club could play 82 games, even in a condensed December to April timeframe, players would avoid losing any salary money and owners could reap full television rights fees and ticket revenues.

"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," union executive director Billy Hunter said. "I think it's possible."

Owners want to trim costs by cutting payrolls and imposing a hard salary cap, claiming only eight of 30 teams are profitable and the other 22 lost a total of $450 million last season.

Players, who made 57 percent of basketball-related income under the old deal, have offered to take as little as 52.5 percent, a reduction of more than $1 billion over 10 years, but owners have demanded a 50-50 split and the sides have yet to agree on exactly how to define what revenues are basketball-related.

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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