The owners and players have quickly coordinated yet another negotiation session on Wednesday. Clearly length means nothing based on the results (or lack there of) that have come about from the latest talks. 13 years ago, there was optimism that a deal could finally get done. This was mostly gauged on long hours spent in these meetings, and bad rumors. Sound familiar? 'Progress' is starting to become my least favorite word. Looking at the quotes, optimism was showing on some NBAPA guys. Others knew they were about to get bent over a barrel.
There was progress made during NBA labor negotiations Monday in New York. How much, though, is clearly up for debate.
On the eve of a two-day owners meeting in New York - and the looming threat of losing an entire season - the NBA and its players union met for 81/8 hours Monday, still struggling to secure a labor agreement.
``There was some progress, sure, but I'm not sure how you categorize it,'' said Magic center Danny Schayes, who is part of the union negotiating team. ``We were 1,000 miles apart. Now we're 800 miles apart.''
The two sides ended their latest negotiating session - with 20 people on the union side and 12 on the league side - at 11:30 p.m. Monday.
``There was no real progress,'' said NBA spokesperson Teri Washington.
The NBA has been paralyzed by a lockout since June 30, when the owners exercised an option to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
The league backed off somewhat on its demand for a hard salary cap, meaning the sides have to be closer, at least in principle, to coming to an agreement on the main economic issues.
``We need a system that eventually gets to where there's a set percentage for the players and a set percentage for the owners,'' Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said. ``I don't think it has to be a hard cap, and in fact some of the things we're talking about now are not hard caps.''
They did agree to meet again Wednesday - with all owners present and with as many league players who want to attend. There is a good chance of a smaller, private meeting this afternoon after Commissioner David Stern meets with many of his owners.
``I don't think we've completely agreed on any issue, but at least now we're talking about the same system,'' Schayes said. ``They've come off the absolute hard-cap-or-nothing idea. And we've put certain things out there now to give them the cost certainty they want.''
At issue is how to split an estimated - but still increasing - $2 billion in annual revenue. The first two weeks of the regular season already have been cancelled. The rest of November schedule is expected to be cancelled this week when the owners adjourn unless the two sides are near an agreement.
Until Monday, the owners have been insisting upon an absolute limit on player salaries, while the players last week insisted they never would agree to a salary cap with no exceptions.
Any compromise this week likely would include a luxury tax to deter owners from signing their own free agents to overly lucrative contracts. The owners want to reduce the percentage of revenues used for player salaries.
``There's hope now,'' said Dikembe Mutombo of the Atlanta Hawks, also part of the negotiating team.
The luxury tax system being talked about would be phased in gradually, changing if certain conditions are not met by either side.
``Instead of absolute cost certainty, there would be mechanisms that give the owners a very good shot at costs within a certain range,'' Schayes said. ``So it's a good compromise in that area.''
In earlier bargaining sessions, the union proposed a 50 percent tax on the amount of any annual salary exceeding $18 million. The owners proposed a tax of anywhere from 50 to 200 percent on any free-agent contract signed under the Larry Bird exception for more than $2.6 million annually.
``The good news is at least we're talking about the same thing,'' Schayes said. ``We're not close on the specifics.''