Given the sizable gap in their positions, it would be easy for NBA owners and players just to walk away.
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Instead, they will follow a long negotiating session Tuesday by heading right back to the bargaining table as planned Wednesday.
”I just take it as a real positive that we’re continuing to meet,” Commissioner David Stern said. ”When you have parties like this, it’s just as easy if you don’t think that there’s the possibility of a breakthrough to say, ‘All right, let’s pack it in and let’s go home.’ But nobody on either side wanted to go home.”
The meeting Tuesday lasted more than five hours, so long that Dallas owner Mark Cuban and Miami’s Micky Arison had to leave the nearby hotel ahead of their colleagues to get to the arena for Game 4 of the NBA finals between their teams.
Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said there were about eight players and 10 owners in the session, which Stern said included ”good and frank” discussion. (He joked he didn’t want to use the word ”heated” to imply any favoritism to one of the teams in the finals).
With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire June 30, both sides say they hope frequent meetings can prevent a lockout. They sat down last week in Miami, had a larger gathering here, and Silver wouldn’t rule out even adding a third day here if things went well Wednesday.
Stern said they ”haven’t reached agreement on anything,” and he reiterated that owners still want massive changes to the league’s salary structure, saying they need a ”very significant restructuring for the owners to have a sustainable investment here on hopefully approaching $5 billion of revenue.”
The union declined to comment until after Wednesday’s meeting.
The NBA says 22 of its 30 teams lost money last season and expects leaguewide losses of around $300 million this season after losing hundreds of millions in each previous year of the agreement that was ratified in 2005.
Owners are seeking a hard salary cap to replace the current system that allows teams to exceed it under certain exceptions, and have sought to reduce player salary costs by about $750 million annually. Stern has said the central issue is the split in revenues, with the players currently guaranteed 57 percent.
The union has offered a reduction of the guarantee and argues the system has largely worked, saying improved revenue sharing among owners would help with their losses.
Both sides have said they want to avoid following the NFL’s labor dispute into the court system, and that can only be done with more bargaining.
”We know, we understand that all of the jockeying is going on in the NFL: litigation, appeals, motions, motions to come, court hearings set for September, which seems like an awful long time away for us,” Stern said. ”And so what it does is cause us to say we’ve got to keep on talking to try to have a breakthrough here, and we’re going to continue that effort tomorrow.”