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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Sources: Players to meet on Friday

By Chris Broussard
ESPN The Magazine

With the supposed start of the regular season a little more than a month away, NBA owners and players appear to be planning their biggest and most spirited meeting of the offseason for this weekend.

Players' association chief Billy Hunter has called for his executive committee members, as well as some of the league's superstars such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, to meet Friday in New York, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

And commissioner David Stern is summoning some of the league's owners together for a meeting amongst themselves.

Stern and Hunter will share with their constituencies where negotiations stand at this point, and then the owners and players might come together to meet with one another, sources said.

In addition to Chris Paul, Maurice Evans, Roger Mason and other members of the executive committee, Bryant, James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce and others stars have been invited to the meeting Friday.

It wasn't immediately known which players have yet agreed to attend the meeting.

The proposed gathering does not necessarily signal a closing of the gap that separates the owners and players, sources said. Instead, with the season scheduled to start Nov. 1, it is to provide clarity as to where negotiations stand and give each side a better idea of whether they have a chance to salvage the 82-game season.

On Wednesday, Bryant told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport that it's "very possible" he'll play in Italy during the lockout. Virtus Bologna has made numerous contract offers to Bryant.

The lockout entered its 90th day Wednesday. During Tuesday's bargaining session in New York, Stern offered a new proposal to the players' union that modestly budged from the owners' long-held position on establishing a hard cap, league sources familiar with the negotiations told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher.

According to Bucher's sources, owners did not offer players a finite annual team limit on salaries but as of Tuesday night were willing to relax the cap only if certain conditions are met.

The labor uncertainty has led to some players -- some with an NBA contract, some without -- choosing to play overseas. The NBA has postponed training camps indefinitely and all preseason games from Oct. 9-15 have been canceled. Camps were expected to open Oct. 3.

Chris Broussard is a senior NBA writer for ESPN The Magazine.