Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The National Basketball Association returned to negotiations with its players union today following a 15-hour bargaining session that left both sides citing progress and refusing to rule out the possibility of a complete 82-game season.
Top negotiators from the league and the National Basketball Players Association resumed talks at a midtown Manhattan hotel at 2 p.m., about 10 hours after holding news conferences following a marathon bargaining session during which they said progress was made in figuring out what type of system the league will operate under when a new labor deal is signed.
It’s been 119 days since the NBA locked the players out on July 1 after the last collective bargaining agreement expired.
“There’s no question that today was a better day than last Thursday,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said at a news conference after 3 a.m. today, referring to the acrimonious end to three days of federally mediated talks last week. “I think it’s too early, not just in the morning, but still in the negotiations, to express confidence that we’re at a deal.”
With the two sides unable to reach agreement on how to split basketball-related income, they instead spent yesterday’s session focusing on the system that the league will operate under in the new contract.
“There’s no question, though, that we did make progress on some significant issues, but there are still some very significant issues left,” Silver said. “I think we did a good job just collectively crystallizing what those issues are so that we can tackle them immediately when we resume.”
Though the first two weeks of the NBA schedule -- which was set to begin Nov. 1 -- have been wiped out, union Executive Director Billy Hunter said after the talks that he was hopeful a full 82-game season could be salvaged.
“I assume that if a deal can be achieved between now or Sunday or Monday of next week, then it’s possible,” Hunter said at a news conference.
NBA Commissioner David Stern declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations and said that if a deal is reached this week, factors such as arena conflicts and travel schedules would play a role in determining whether an 82-game season is possible.
“I have given them the sense that we’re going to knock ourselves out, with them, consistent with what’s in the best interest of our fans and players in terms of a schedule, to try to schedule as many games as possible,” Stern said.
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors; San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, chairman of the owners’ labor-relations committee; and New York Knicks owner Jim Dolan attended yesterday’s negotiations, while union President Derek Fisher and executive committee member Maurice Evans also took part.
Yesterday’s session came six days after federally mediated talks failed and bitterness seemed at its highest point since the league and union began discussing a new labor deal more than two years ago.
Holt said at the time that after 45 negotiating sessions, the two sides had “kind of worn each other out” and were in need of “fresh ideas.”
Those negotiations, which lasted more than 30 hours over three successive days, ended with the two sides 2 1/2 percent apart, or about $100 million, in splitting basketball-related revenue, and with several issues remaining regarding the system that the league will operate under.
The NBA made about $4.3 billion last season during a period when Stern said the league’s 30 teams collectively lost about $300 million.
Thirteen NBA players also agreed yesterday to participate in the first leg of what’s being called the World All-Star Classic. An exhibition game, the first of what has been reported to be a four-city tour, will be played Oct. 30 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The players joining the game at the Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum include Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler, the exhibition’s organizers, Reign Entertainment Group and LaGardere Unlimited, said in a news release.
--Editors: Rob Gloster, Larry Siddons.
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