No progress during NBA labor talks
NEW YORK -- No progress was made in NBA labor talks Friday, unless progress can be measured by the absence of angry rhetoric or the unveiling of a fashion statement.
Owners and players met for about four hours Friday with just six days remaining until the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement, and they agreed to meet again next Wednesday or Thursday after the owners hold a meeting in Dallas on Tuesday.
But neither side made a proposal after each made one in the previous meeting, and the sides remained several billion dollars apart with the possibility of a lockout growing stronger by the day.
About 50 players attended the meeting dressed in matching dark gray T-shirts with the word "STAND" written on the front in block letters, perhaps sending a signal that the union is taking a harder stance after its recent $500 million giveback was dismissed by commissioner David Stern as "modest."
We don't view the process as over in any way, so I wouldn't say the talks are off just because there wasn't a lot of movement in terms of economic numbers being given back and forth. It doesn't mean that we're not still negotiating. It's not about meeting every day just for the sake of meeting.” -- NBPA president Derek Fisher
"They didn't break off. We don't view the process as over in any way, so I wouldn't say the talks are off just because there wasn't a lot of movement in terms of economic numbers being given back and forth. It doesn't mean that we're not still negotiating," union president Derek Fisher said. "It's not about meeting every day just for the sake of meeting."
Stern made it a point not to comment on any aspect of the substance of Friday's meeting, intimating that both sides needed to amp down the tone of their public comments following two days of jabbing and jousting by the union in the wake of Tuesday's contentious bargaining session.
"Rhetoric is not helpful, it is incendiary. We are not interested in incendiary rhetoric on either side," Stern said. "This is a negotiation that is going to yield its end point, and I think the one thing that's clear if that both sides have an enormous amount to gain from making a deal, and both sides have an enormous amount to lose by not making a deal."
At Tuesday's meeting, the union proposed a five-year deal in which the players would receive $100 million less per season in salaries, and the owners countered with a proposed 10-year deal that would set a target of $2 billion in player salaries each season -- a reduction from the $2.17 billion the players earned in the 2010-11 season.
Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver were asked several questions about what kind of a revenue sharing plan the owners are discussing, and they said it was a question that was difficult to answer without knowing what the end result of the labor talks will be.
"We can't make the final sort of push on revenue sharing until we know what the yield or not of the labor deal is," Stern said.
Among the players who do not usually take part in negotiations, but who were in attendance Friday were Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks, Andre Iguodala of Philadelphia, Luke Walton of the Los Angeles Lakers and Josh Childress of the Phoenix Suns.
"They were nicely done," Stern said of the players' matching T-shirts. "And by the way, I would add this: It was great to have so many players in the room. I think sometimes by not being part of the dialogue, by not hearing the expression of the other side's point of views, by not observing and engaging in the give-and-take, you lose something. So we were hoping that more players would come, and we were actually cheered by the fact that they were there, and some of the new players did make themselves heard."
Stern did not rule out the possibility of further dialogue over the weekend, though he said it was the players, not the owners, who had requested that formal bargaining talks resume in the middle of next week.
That would leave only 24-48 hours before the expiration of the labor agreement, although the sides could mutually agree to stop the clock and continue talking if they felt enough progress is being made and a deal is within reach.
"The 30th (of June) can be just another day," union director Billy Hunter said. "They are the ones that will determine if it carries more significance than it really should. What happens on the 30th is that the collective bargaining agreement expires. It doesn't mean that it has to be the end of negotiations. It doesn't mean it has to be a lockout. The ball is in their court. They will decide how we'll treat it."
Senior writer Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com.