The discussions began quietly Tuesday and are expected to continue through the Thanksgiving holiday, the people told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the talks were supposed to remain confidential.
The talks between representatives of the owners and players are now centered on settling their lawsuits: The players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league in Minnesota and the league filed a pre-emptive suit in New York, seeking to prove the lockout was legal.
Neither side commented on the talks, first reported by Yahoo Sports, though the league said in a statement it “remains in favor of a negotiated resolution” to the lockout.
The news revived the hopes of saving the Christmas slate, when the league schedules some marquee matchups to kick off its national TV package. The NBA finals rematch between Dallas and Miami was to headline three games this season
The league had wanted to open a 72-game schedule on Dec. 15, pushing the start of the playoffs and finals back a week, if players had agreed to the last offer. But players rejected the owners’ most recent proposal on Nov. 14, announcing instead they were disbanding the union to pave the way to sue the league.
The plan now would be for 66 games if a resolution comes soon. The league played a 50-game schedule in 1998-99 during its last lockout, when a deal didn’t come until January, so there’s still hope of some games this season even if it doesn’t include Christmas.
Commissioner David Stern has said it would take about 30 days from an agreement to the start of the regular season.
David Boies, one of the attorneys representing the players, has repeatedly said he hoped the league would be compelled to settle rather than risk a potentially lengthy trial that could end with players being awarded about $6 billion in damages.
Because the union disbanded, it cannot negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, but the settlement talks could lead to that. The CBA can only be completed once the union has reformed.
When talks broke down, the sides were still divided over the division of revenues and certain changes sought by owners to curb spending by big-market teams that players felt would limit or restrict their options in free agency. Owners are insistent on a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. Union officials indicated they could be open to that, even though they were guaranteed 57 percent in the old CBA, but only if the league conceded on some of the “system” issues.
With the union no longer representing the players, it was unclear who was involved in the new round of talks. NBPA executive director Billy Hunter is officially part of the players’ legal team so he’s able to take part in the talks, though his participation in negotiations could strengthen the league’s contention that the disclaimer strategy was a “sham” and the union hadn’t really gone anywhere.