NEW YORK - One down, two big issues to go for an agreement that would end the NBA lockout.
It may not happen this weekend, but players and owners both say they are working to get there soon enough that the season can start on time.
“All I’ll say is there was a sense of urgency in the room today,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said after the sides met for more than four hours Friday.
“I think the sense today from both sides is we really need to push this weekend. Time is of the essence, and I don’t think there was any disagreement about that by both parties.”
All-Stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant joined the players’ association executive committee for what president Derek Fisher called an “engaging” meeting with the owners’ labor relations committee.
Afterward, Commissioner David Stern indicated that the union will OK the owners’ plan for enhanced revenue sharing. However, the salary cap structure remains an obstacle, as does the division of revenues between the sides.
They will return Saturday morning and are committed to talking through the weekend, knowing additional cancellations are likely necessary next week if they’re not close to a deal.
A week of preseason games have already been lost, and the Nov. 1 regular season opener would be in jeopardy without progress this weekend.
Some may have been made in regards to the league’s plan for enhanced revenue sharing among owners - which players had long argued as a way for the league to address its losses.
Stern emphatically denied that he would threaten to cancel the entire season this early even if things don’t go well this weekend. Still, he repeated that there would be danger in not making progress soon.
“Both sides agreed that the consequences of not making a deal lead us to the prospect of possibly at some point in the not distant future losing regular-season games,” Stern said. “And we agreed that once you start to lose them and the players lose paychecks and the owners lose money, then positions on both sides will harden and those are the enormous consequences that I referred to in terms of trying to make a deal.”
There were 21 players and 10 owners in the meeting. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Elton Brand, Baron Davis and Andre Iguodala were among the other players who stood behind Fisher at his news conference after the session.
“We feel it helps the process for our teams to hear directly from a lot of times their star players, their franchise players, the guys who mean the most to our game,” Fisher said.
Players have been frustrated that owners have shut them out of their plans for expanded revenue sharing. Stern had said the plan couldn’t be finalized until the collective bargaining agreement was done, so the league would first know how much it would be paying out to the players.
But Stern said the players know everything the league knows and insisted “that will not be the issue that separates us.” He has said the plan is for the revenue sharing pot to triple next season from this year’s $54 million and added Friday that the goal was to quadruple it by year three.
The salary cap remains an obstacle. Players have stressed they will fight any attempt to impose a hard cap system instead of the current soft cap that allows teams to exceed it through the use of certain exceptions.
Owners this week relaxed their insistence on the hard cap, instead proposing a system where there would be four levels of the luxury tax, and the more a team spent, the higher that tax. (There is currently a $1 for every $1 over the tax threshold.) But Fisher, without getting into specifics, said that system still wouldn’t work for the players.
“I think the idea was if you removed the name ?hard cap,’ that that would be good enough in itself. But we still believe the mechanisms ... still in just about every sense would be a hard cap for teams,” he said. “There would be very few, if any, teams that would be in a position to spend over that particular number, so that’s how we feel about it at this point. It doesn’t mean that the negotiation is over, but it’s definitely not anywhere close to where we’d be able to agree to it.”
The division of revenues is the last of what Stern called the “Big Three” items. Owners are seeking to reduce the players’ guarantee from 57 percent in the previous deal.