Jason Terry: Labor optimism dims

Updated: September 21, 2011, 9:36 AM ET
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com

NBA training camps are scheduled to open in two weeks, but Dallas Mavericks player representative Jason Terry doesn't expect to reunite with coaches and teammates any time soon.

Labor negotiations between NBA owners and the players association continue at a tedious pace, but sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that representatives for the NBA's owners and players, in addition to lawyers representing both sides in the league's lockout, will hold a meeting Wednesday in New York.

Terry said Tuesday that his optimism earlier in the process that a new labor deal would get hammered out and his Mavericks would begin their title defense on time has dissipated.

"For me it's tough," Terry said. "Not only did we do something great and have been sitting back enjoying it, but training camp is right around the corner. But it's not looking good for us to get things started on time. Right now, at this point where we're at, both sides are still far apart."

Terry said he has been told not to talk about specifics of the negotiations; however, reports suggest the owners' stance for a hard cap appears to be a prime sticking point. Terry attended one of the first negotiating sessions in July. He has not participated in any meetings since, but he said he is constantly apprised of the situation so he can keep teammates updated.

"When you're in there, as opposed to reading in the newspaper or watching on TV, you really get to see people's reactions and really see how important this deal is, not only to the owners, but to the players and not only my era but to eras that we will leave behind," Terry said. "It's a lot of work that has to be done. It's not anything that you can iron out in a day or two. This is a lengthy process and if you are not on the same page with the person you are negotiating with then it's just going to make for a long negotiation.

"Because it's getting down to the final minutes, we don't want to rush into anything just to try to save the season. But, as we stand right now, the owners aren't moving and we definitely are staying strong together as a union."

The unanswered question is whether the union can stick together once paychecks are missed in November when the regular season is scheduled to start. Terry said he's confident players won't crack when paychecks don't arrive every two weeks because the majority of players have heeded the advice of union chief Billy Hunter for several years now to be prepared.

"I'm very confident in that, and the only reason I say that is because for the last two-and-a-half, three years, we've foreseen this coming and so guys have really prepared themselves financially to be stable," Terry said. "Also, as you've seen, certain guys for whatever reason, financially, or because they want to continue to play, have taken the route in going overseas. I believe the masses of players are ready and financially stable enough to go as long as they need before this deal gets done."

Terry wants to see a resolution quickly not only so he and the Mavs can return to the court as the defending champions but also so he can begin his own negotiation. Terry, who turned 34 last week, is entering his eighth season in Dallas and the final year of his contract.

After winning the championship in June, Terry playfully carved out a spot in the American Airlines Center rafters where the franchise can hang his No. 31, alongside Dirk Nowitzki's No. 41. Terry has repeatedly said he wants to retire with the franchise. On Tuesday he said his preference is to sign an extension during the season and avoid becoming a free agent next summer.

Terry said he and his agent, Dan Fegan, did not have talks with the Mavs during the limited negotiating window after winning the title and up until the lockout on July 1 when league business ceased.

"I'll just put it in big, bold letters, 'I want to retire a Maverick, period. Big period,' " Terry said. "So, whatever we have to do, whenever this thing gets back started, I'm sure we'll be able to do something to make that happen. It's definitely something I would love to see happen."

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.

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