Derek Fisher awaits high-level talks
DETROIT -- The next round of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement negotiations will come down to a game of two-on-two.
Commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver will see where they stand with National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and NBPA president Derek Fisher on Thursday, as first reported by CBSSports.com.
It will be the first time since the negotiations began in August 2009 that only the two top-ranking officials from both sides will meet, according to Fisher. The agreement expires on June 30, 2011.
Fisher spoke to ESPNLosAngeles.com about the meeting, which he will join via conference call from a Minneapolis hotel. The Los Angeles Lakers play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday to finish up a three-game trip.
"It doesn't have more importance necessarily than other conversations or meetings," Fisher said of the meeting after the Lakers' 118-107 win in Milwaukee on Tuesday. "It's just a continuation of the dialogue and communication to try to keeping steps closer to getting something done."
The biggest points of contention are Stern's announcement that owners are seeking a $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries and that contraction of teams is an option. But Fisher said he and Hunter will not enter Thursday's meeting with a specific agenda.
"That's not typically the way it happens," Fisher said. "I think you go in very open-minded and realizing that although you're meeting and you're working on trying to get a deal done, there's still really ideas, concepts and things you can discuss but that doesn't necessarily mean that you're giving it away."
The sides will reconvene in February during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
Atlanta Hawks guard Maurice Evans, a vice president on the NBPA executive committee, has spoken out against the proposed salary cut, saying owners should "police themselves" from overspending in the current system. Fisher's teammate Kobe Bryant told CBSSports.com that owners should "look in the mirror" and "make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments."
Fisher elaborated on the union's stance.
"We just feel that if there are teams or individual owners that feel strongly [about adopting a hard cap], they need to make some different decisions regarding the salaries and how much money is being spent on players or personnel," he said. "They have every right to make that decision and not pay guys as much as maybe they've been paying. We'd be comfortable with that from the standpoint of it not needing to compress or depress the entire system and lock it in place and say, 'No matter what, you can't go over that.' "
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Fisher said players have to be mindful of appearing out of touch and losing public appeal amid the current economy by complaining about salary cuts when they are well-compensated. But he said the owners should not be allowed to use financial figures the NBPA does not agree with.
"I think it's very important for our players to have opinions and thoughts about what's going on and when they can articulate things in a smart and impactful way, of course it helps our cause," Fisher said. "When guys have opinions, that doesn't mean that they're not cognizant to the fact that we're in a very fortunate position as NBA basketball players and we recognize that."
Fisher said the increasingly tough rhetoric from both sides does not mean the two parties are moving further apart from finding an agreement.
"I don't think it's any different than where we've stood from the beginning," Fisher said. "I don't think what the commissioner has said is far away from what he said originally at the beginning. ... I don't think anything that has been said is surprising in any way."
Proposals have been passed back and forth for 15 months, but Fisher said there is plenty of time to find an answer because there is more than seven months left before a potential lockout date at the start of July.
"In terms of the clock ticking, I don't think it's put anyone in the position of desperation or feeling as though we need to make snap decisions at this very point," Fisher said. "At the same time, the plan is not to wait until June 30 to start negotiating."Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.