Fri, Sep 30, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Season start at stake at talks set for today

AFP, NEW YORK

NBA players and club owners are scheduled to meet today and possibly through the weekend to try and reach an agreement to end a lockout over money issues and start the season on Nov. 1 as scheduled.

Two days of negotiations concluded on Wednesday with plans for full bargaining groups to return to the table today with plans to keep talking as long as progress is made toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

The NBA has already wiped out training camps that were set to start next week and 43 preseason games have already been called off. Much more could be jeopardized without quick progress in talks, NBA commissioner David Stern said.

“There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend,” Stern said. “Let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”

“Either we will make very good progress, and we know what that would mean — we know how good that would be, without putting dates to it — or we won’t make any progress,” Stern said.

“And then it won’t be a question of just starting the season on time. There will be a lot at risk because of the absence of progress,” Stern said.

Players realize that with sides still well apart on terms and time ticking away, the odds of playing a full season shrink greatly by the day.

“It points more toward the calendar than actually being able to measure progress,” players’ union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers said. “If we can’t find a way to get some common ground really, really soon, then the time of starting the regular season at its scheduled date is going to be in jeopardy big-time.”

Club owners want a firm salary cap in place of the exemption-filled version previously used and seek to trim the 57 percent of revenues the players received in the prior contract to less than half.

Players have offered to trim their share of revenues, which were US$3.8 billion last season, to about 54 percent, but have fought any greater reduction and are unwilling to take a deal with a salary cap.

“I can’t say that common ground is evident, but our desire to try to get there, I think, is there,” Fisher said.

“We still have a great deal of issues to work through, so there won’t be any magic that will -happen this weekend to just make those things go away, but we have to put the time in,” Fisher said.

Stern had no comment on reports that club owners would settle for tightening some of the salary cap loopholes instead of imposing a hard cap. He also would not say if clubs could start the season with no pre-season games first.

“I shouldn’t deal with hypotheticals,” Stern said.

Today marks three full months since the prior deal expired and owners locked out players, the first work stoppage in the NBA since the 1998-1999 season was reduced to 50 games per club.

The only North American sports league to wipe out an entire season over money issues was the National Hockey League in 2004-2005. Some of the owners of NHL clubs from that lost season are among the NBA owners in this situation.

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