Sunday, October 9, 2011
Sources: NBA, union meeting Sunday
ESPN.com news services
The NBA's top labor negotiators and their counterparts in the players' union will meet Sunday night in an 11th-hour attempt to avert the cancellation of any regular-season games, sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
The unexpected session will include commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, union president Derek Fisher and union executive director Billy Hunter, the sources said.
The New York Times first reported the news, citing a person briefed on the meeting.
The NBA has said it will cancel the first two weeks of the season if there is no labor agreement reached by Monday. The entire preseason already has been wiped out.
On Friday, a late attempt to get the two sides together broke down when, according to union sources, the NBA demanded a 50-50 revenue split with players before the meeting. The league denies that such a demand was made.
What's clear is that the owners are heading into Sunday's meeting with no intention of going above the 50-50 split they broached with the players last week.
The players did not agree to the 50-50 split before Sunday's talks, however. The owners simply relaxed their demand, the sources told Broussard.
Players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income under the previous collective bargaining agreement and have proposed lowering it to 53 percent in a new deal, but that remaining 3 percent represents an unbridged gap of about $120 million.
The union still plans to hold a Monday meeting in Los Angeles, and leaders plan on flying out there Monday morning.
In a letter sent to players on Sunday night, which was obtained by ESPN.com, union president Derek Fisher reiterates that every player in the league is invited to attend a union meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon in Los Angeles and urges "each of you to attend if at all possible."
Fisher also informed union members that he and New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul will be taking a leaf out of the NFL union's lockout primer Monday by sending out a "LET US PLAY" message via their respective Twitter feeds.
"Chris Paul and I will also be utilizing our personal social networking channels to show the fans and you all that we are united and want to get back to work under a fair deal," Fisher wrote.
"We invite you each to do the same. To show our unity and to remind the fans that this not our choice and we would like to go back to work and play the game they love to support."
"There's still time," Miami Heat player representative James Jones said Saturday night at the South Florida All-Star Classic. "There's always time. Anything can happen. But you have to be realistic and understand that just because there's time it doesn't mean that something will get done. But on the flip side, something can get done."
The exhibition in Miami was hosted by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and featured an emotional outpouring from fans -- similar to what's happened at other games that have popped up during the NBA lockout.
"The fans need the game," said NBA veteran Caron Butler, who ended last season with the champion Dallas Mavericks. "They miss the game. And we want to play it."
Wade asked the players to stick around after Saturday's game ended for what turned into an hourlong meeting on the status of the labor negotiations. The AP has learned Wade is trying to become more involved in the talks, and urged those who were in the room with him late Saturday night to be as "informed" as possible about what's at stake in this next labor agreement.
One fan wearing a Wade jersey held up a large sign during Saturday's game, urging Stern to find a way to get a deal struck and end the lockout. And after the game, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said he thought it was certain that the first two weeks of the regular season -- at least -- would soon be canceled.
Players say they're just going to keep working, just in case they're soon summoned for training camps.
"You've just got to deal with it," Golden State's Dorell Wright said. "Our thing is to stay calm and take the best deal for us. We won't jump the gun. We're going to stay here, stay together as a union and hope that the right deal comes along."
Wright stood near midcourt and just stared at the scene inside FIU's arena after the game, as fans begged players for T-shirts, jerseys, a handshake, an autograph, a photo, anything.
He said he wished everyone in the NBA -- including those on both sides of the negotiating table -- could have had that view.
"Somebody needs to open their eyes," Wright said. "These fans love us and without them we wouldn't be who we are today. These are our No. 1 supporters, besides our families and they love the game just like we do. We definitely want to be on the court. Hopefully something happens."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.