Fate of NBA season opener at stake
Owners and players are meeting on a ''very huge day'' in the NBA, with perhaps the fate of the league's 82-game schedule at stake.
With both sides acknowledging they are nearly out of time to save the Nov. 1 opener, some level of progress seemed essential Tuesday by their full bargaining committees. The sides met first among themselves before the bargaining session started in the early afternoon.
Union president Derek Fisher said Monday that signs pointed to Tuesday being a ''very huge day.'' His teammate Kobe Bryant arrived Tuesday for the meetings, with Boston Celtics stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett among other players joining the union's executive committee.
They were sitting down with the labor relations committee of the owners, who locked out the players on July 1 when the sides were unable to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement.
''Both sides are really confident about getting something done soon, so we're just trying to make sure we work it out,'' said Knicks All-Star Amare Stoudemire, another top player who came for Tuesday's talks.
Saying they lost $300 million last season, owners are seeking changes to the salary cap and division of revenues. Players were guaranteed 57 percent in the old deal, and owners so far have proposed a reduction to 46 percent.
''We're apart on the split, but we know that the answer lies between where they were are, where we are,'' Commissioner David Stern said. ''And without defining ours or defining theirs, I think if there's a will, we'll be able to deal with both the splits and the system issues.''
Training camps have been postponed and 43 preseason games scheduled for Oct. 9-15 were canceled, and more damage seems imminent. Given that nearly a month would be necessary between the time an agreement is reached and games could take place, both sides have repeatedly said they are aware of the calendar and the looming deadlines.
''Each side understands exactly what's at stake and where potentially there is movement in order to try to get a deal done,'' Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said Monday. ''I mean, we can only say we're running out of time so many times.
''We both understand that if we don't make our best offers in the next few days, we're going to be at the point where we're going to be causing damage to the game, to ourselves, and they're going to be out paychecks,'' he added.
Stern said it would be difficult to fit in all 82 games if the season doesn't start on time. The NBA has lost games to a work stoppage only once, when the 1998-99 season was reduced to 50 games.