NBA owners, union talk, to meet again Thursday

  • Associated Press
  • Wednesday, September 7, 2011 4:24pm
  • Sports

NEW YORK — NBA owners and players met for about 5½ hours Wednesday, plan to resume negotiations Thursday, and could even sit down again Friday.

While neither side would say if progress is being made, the frequency of the discussions seems a good sign. They met only twice in the first two months of the lockout that began July 1.

But they went for about six hours last Wednesday, and decided they would go multiple days this week. Both sides said they could even carry over the discussions into a third consecutive day if things go well during Thursday’s session.

“We agreed that we’re going to sit here for as many days as we can to see whether we can make progress, but we agreed not to characterize anything at all,” Commissioner David Stern said.

Both sides were cautious not to portray any optimism — though one player briefly did on Twitter, before saying his account had been hacked — or any other feelings about what was happening in the room at a midtown hotel. They said last week they wanted details of the discussions to remain private and seem intent on keeping that vow.

“It’s tough to characterize it in one fashion or another. Obviously, the more we have the opportunities to meet, talk and discuss and really try to figure out how we can put a deal together, the better, so you can characterize that as positive in a sense,” union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said. “But to characterize what comes out of the meetings and whether we’re making progress or we have momentum, we can’t say and it’s tough to say. Until the deal is done, there is no deal.”

Stern was joined on the owners’ side by Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, who heads the labor relations committee, and NBA senior vice president and deputy general counsel Dan Rube. The union negotiators were Fisher, executive vice president Billy Hunter, attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner, and economist Kevin Murphy.

Shortly after the meeting, Knicks guard Roger Mason Jr., a member of the players’ executive committee, wrote “Looking like a season. How u” on his Twitter page. He later deleted that post and wrote a subsequent one that his account had been hacked.

Hunter, who long held a pessimistic view of the negotiations, said he thought clearly “there’s more than enough time” for a deal to be reached that would allow this season’s schedule to remain intact. Training camps would likely open Oct. 3, the first preseason games are Oct. 9, and the regular season opener is Nov. 1.

Those long seemed in jeopardy as the sides remained far apart on most financial issues when the old collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of the day June 30. They then didn’t meet again until Aug. 1, then not again until last Wednesday.

But both sides recognize that progress must be made soon, or the threat of losing games to a work stoppage for only the second time in league history will increase.

“There’s a window here. We have an opportunity to make some progress, to try to hammer some things out,” Fisher said.

“Time is running down, not necessarily out, but I think we all feel in the room that if we continue to work at it we can possibly find a way to get a deal done.”

Each side has filed a charge against the other with the National Labor Relations Board for unfair bargaining practices, and the league also filed a federal lawsuit against the players seeking to block them from using decertification of the union as a tactic. Fisher and the union negotiators were getting an update from outside counsel on where things stand with the legal matters after the meeting.

But perhaps the more frequent talks can allow the players and owners to take care of things themselves without court interference.

“We know we have a real problem to solve and there’s nothing personal about these negotiations, it’s going to be about problem solving,” Stern said. “If we can, we can. If we can’t, we can’t, but we’ve agreed not to talk about it.”

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