Sources: NBA, union to meet Monday
NEW YORK -- One month after the NBA lockout began, the heavy hitters will finally be back at the bargaining table Monday.
Commissioner David Stern, union director Billy Hunter and their top lieutenants have agreed to resume collective bargaining discussions, sources told ESPN.com Wednesday, for the first time since talks broke down hours before NBA owners imposed a lockout July 1, shutting down the league for the first time since the summer of 1998.
The sides remain far apart on the parameters of a new deal, but the decision to meet face-to-face again is one of the first possible signs of progress after four weeks of stagnancy.
Aside from Stern and Hunter, the meeting is expected to include NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, players association president Derek Fisher and Peter Holt of the San Antonio Spurs, the head of the owners
When the sides last met on June 30, the players offered a six-year agreement in which they would cut their take of basketball-related income (BRI) from 57 percent to 54.6 percent -- or $100 million per year over the six years.
Owners are seeking a 10-year agreement with a hard salary cap, and their most recent proposal targeted paying the players at least $2 billion in salaries in each of the 10 seasons.
Players have argued that their cut of BRI would be cut from 57 percent to less than 40 percent under the owners' most recent proposal, while owners have maintained they need fundamental financial changes to an operating system in which they claim 22 of the league's 30 teams lost money last season. The union disputes that contention.
Attorneys from the league office and the players' union met July 15 ago to conclude the annual BRI audit, and it was agreed that the sides desired to put the negotiations on a faster track than they were on during the 1998 labor dispute, when nearly seven weeks elapsed between the last pre-lockout negotiating session and the first bargaining session after the imposition of the work stoppage. But that dispute was not settled until late-January of 1999, forcing the cancellation of games because of a work stoppage for the first time in the league's history.
Last Friday, a number of prominent player agents met with Hunter and urged him to consider fast-tracking a move toward decertification, which would enable the player to sue the owners in federal court on anti-trust grounds. Hunter, however, prefers to await a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board on an unfair bargaining practices complaint the union filed earlier this year.
Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.