There was much less progress being made 13 years ago, than the current negotiations are producing. So there's your slight bright spot of the day. Day 99 of the work stoppage provided a ray of hope to basketball fans as the NBAPA and owners held their first legitimate meetings in over a month. It was a desperate push to begin the '98-'99 campaign on time, or suffer the consequences of cancelled regular season games. Hop in the time machine back to the present, and we're all praying we see more chats sooner than later. The quotes below show a lot of tension between the two sides.
With hopes of an on-time start fading rapidly, the NBA and its players' union will reopen negotiations today in search of a new collective bargaining agreement.
Although a quick settlement is unlikely - and neither side sounded optimistic Wednesday - today's meeting in New York is a last-gasp effort to avoid losing regular-season games to labor problems for the first time in the league's history.
It will be the first full-scale negotiating session in more than a month. There have been informal talks since then, and the owners sent a new proposal to the players 10 days ago, but it was rejected quickly.
Because of the lockout imposed by the owners, the league already has canceled the exhibition season, and unless they are close to an agreement by Friday, the league next week will start canceling regular-season games.
Both sides agree that it would take three to four weeks after an agreement is signed before they could begin the regular season, which is scheduled to start Nov.3. More than 200 free agents must be signed before abbreviated training camps could open.
The Magic were expected to open the season Nov.3 against the Dallas Mavericks.
Members of the National Basketball Players Association's negotiating team - including Magic center Danny Schayes - started arriving in New York on Tuesday for today's meeting. Both sides held final strategy sessions Wednesday. The league's negotiating team will include a few of the team owners, several league attorneys and Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik.
Both sides are awaiting a ruling from arbitrator John Feerick on whether players with guaranteed contracts for this season - more than 200 - should be paid during the lockout. Feerick's decision could come at any time before his Oct. 19 deadline. He has encouraged both sides to reach an agreement before he rules, although that now looks unlikely.
``I still have no real reason to be optimistic right now,'' Granik said. ``But anything can happen. And you hope it does.''
The league and the players remain far apart on the key issue of a salary cap. The players would like to retain a flexible cap with loopholes that allowed them to reap 57 percent of all league revenues last season. But the owners want a ``hard'' salary cap with no exceptions to give them more cost certainty.
The league revenues last season reached an estimated $1.7 billion, while the players received approximately $1 billion in salary and benefits.
``We feel that the NBA is making a lot of money. Everybody, for the most part, is doing financially OK,'' union President Patrick Ewing said. ``So we don't see why they had to lock us out. If you asked David Stern, I don't think he would say that the league as a whole is doing bad.''
But Stern and the owners claim as many as half of them are losing money and the league as a whole is much less profitable than it was just a few years ago.
``You'd be surprised how quickly things can progress when both sides get serious,'' Schayes said. ``We'll just have to wait and see if that happens. I think everyone wants to start playing.''