They didn’t emerge with the deal Commissioner David Stern wanted Tuesday, but things went well enough that owners decided to alter their plans after previously saying they weren’t available Wednesday.
The sides met beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday and went late into the night, finally breaking after 2 a.m. Wednesday. It was more than twice as long as any previous negotiating session since owners locked out players when the old collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.
Both sides left the meeting without commenting at the request of federal mediator George Cohen.
Owners originally ruled out labor talks for Wednesday and Thursday because they have two days of board meetings planned, but the labor relations committee that was set for a morning presentation will instead return to resume discussions with the players.
Owners still will meet later in the day to discuss plans for expanded revenue sharing among teams. Players have wanted that as part of the CBA process, believing it’s a way for the league to address its losses. But Stern said it can’t come until after the labor deal, so they first know what savings are coming from there.
Although the fact that talks didn’t break off is good news, one person with knowledge of the process said not to presume there was any serious progress. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Cohen’s request.
Joining Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and other top league officials Tuesday were 13 team executives making up the labor relations committee, including Dallas owner Mark Cuban, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Knicks owner Jim Dolan, Spurs owner and committee chair Peter Holt and Heat owner Micky Arison. The players had their entire executive committee, led by president Derek Fisher of the Lakers, except for Bucks guard Keyon Dooling.
The sides have been divided mostly by two issues, the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system.
Players oppose a hard salary cap, and they believe owners’ attempts to make the luxury tax more punitive and limit the use of spending exceptions will effectively create one. 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.
Stern said last week that he wanted a breakthrough Tuesday, even saying his “gut” told him there might not be games on Christmas Day if there wasn’t an agreement before his owners’ meetings.
Tuesday marked the 110th day of the lockout. Stern wiped out the first two weeks of the season – exactly 100 games – last week. The cancellations marked the NBA’s first work stoppage since the 1998-99 season was reduced to 50 games.
More could be coming without a new collective bargaining agreement soon. The sides have been going nowhere despite frequent meetings in recent weeks, so Stern said they welcomed help from Cohen, who was present for talks between NFL owners and players for 16 days in February and March before that mediation broke off.