NBA-union talks continuing
NEW YORK -- Feeling a "sense of urgency" to get a deal done quickly, NBA players and owners met for more than four hours Friday and resumed talks Saturday morning.
The Friday meetings produced some tense moments, as Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat yelled while making pointed remarks to commissioner David Stern, a source close to the situation told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
The meeting was so intense that Wade and the other star players present nearly stormed out. They remained only because union executive director Billy Hunter calmed them down and asked them to, the source told Broussard.
"I think that a lot of that was blown out of proportion. In the midst of negotiations, people are gonna talk, people are gonna voice their opinions," Davis said. "I think that both sides have a great deal of respect for each other, as well as admiration from a business standpoint. The players, we are united and we are standing firm with each other. The owners are doing the same."
With time running out to reach an agreement in time to save the Nov. 1 start of the regular season, All-Stars including Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant joined the players' association executive committee Friday for what president Derek Fisher called an "engaging" meeting with the owners' labor relations committee.
Neither side cited any progress but said it was a good sign that they agreed to continue the discussions. Both sides are committed to talking through the weekend, knowing additional cancellations are likely necessary next week if they're not close to a deal.
But both sides cautioned that it will be tough to get there this weekend.
"All I'll say is there was a sense of urgency in the room today," deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.
"I think the sense today from both sides is we really need to push this weekend. Time is of the essence, and I don't think there was any disagreement about that by both parties."
The players met separately for two hours Friday before meeting with the owners.
While meeting with the owners, Stern pointed at Wade while making a comment, a source told Broussard. Wade felt as if Stern was belittling him and yelled at the commissioner.
"You're not pointing your finger at me," Wade said, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher. "I'm not your child."
The sides then went their separate ways for a cooling-off session, but several of the players had heard enough. Sources said Stern then asked to speak separately with Hunter, who then returned to speak with the players and was able to convince them to rejoin the owners in the meeting.
One source told Broussard the move by Hunter was a lifeline for Stern, who would not have looked good had the league's top players stormed out with 10 owners present.
Fisher held a separate players-only meeting before the bargaining session to gauge how resolved the other 20 players who traveled to New York would be after Stern warned of "enormous consequences" if progress was not made this weekend.
According to a source who was in the players meeting, at one point Anthony stood up and said, "When we go in there, we go in there as a unit. We stand behind Billy and we stand behind Derek." Paul Pierce and Wade were also very vocal in their resolve, the source told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne.
Silver and Stern indicated that the union is satisfied with the league's plan for enhanced revenue sharing among owners -- which players had long argued as a way for the league to address its losses.
The salary-cap structure, however, continues to divide the sides.
Stern emphatically denied that he would threaten to cancel the entire season this early even if things don't go well this weekend. Still, he repeated that there would be danger in not making progress soon.
"Both sides agreed that the consequences of not making a deal lead us to the prospect of possibly at some point in the not distant future losing regular-season games," Stern said. "And we agreed that once you start to lose them and the players lose paychecks and the owners lose money, then positions on both sides will harden and those are the enormous consequences that I referred to in terms of trying to make a deal."
There were 21 players and 10 owners in the meeting. Pierce, Davis, Ray Allen, Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala were among the other players who stood behind Fisher at his news conference after the session.
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While one player said afterwards that both sides are "still far apart" on a deal, Fisher said the presence of the league's prominent faces was felt in the conference room and stimulated the talks.
"Some of our guys standing here right now have been kind of questioned in terms of their commitment to this process, their commitment to the union and to the game," Fisher said. "Their presence here today says a lot. These guys have always been here with us in spirit, they've always been here with us in terms of the cause and their influence."
Fisher said "a handful" of the special guest attendees spoke up during the bargaining session. When asked who was the most vocal, he responded with a smile, "I was."
Stern and Silver also applauded the league's stars for attending.
"Actually I think it was good that they're there because I know that the union has to answer certain questions from them and their agents," Stern said. "But they don't even need the union as an intermediary to understand the intensity of the views held by the owners about the need for a better economic system, a better system that makes our teams competitive."
Players have been frustrated that owners have shut them out of their plans for expanded revenue sharing. Stern had said the plan couldn't be finalized until the collective bargaining agreement was done, so the league would first know how much it would be paying out to the players.
But Stern said the players know everything the league knows and insisted "that will not be the issue that separates us." He has said the plan is for the revenue-sharing pot to triple next season from this year's $54 million, and added Friday that the goal was to quadruple it by Year 3.
Many players are heading to Chris Paul's charity game and will not be in attendance Saturday, when meetings in smaller groups are planned.
The salary cap remains an obstacle.
Owners this week relaxed their insistence on the hard cap, instead proposing a system where there would be four levels of the luxury tax, and the more a team spent, the higher that tax. (There is currently a $1 for every $1 over the tax threshold.) But Fisher, without getting into specifics, said that system still wouldn't work for the players.
"I think the idea was if you removed the name 'hard cap,' that that would be good enough in itself. But we still believe the mechanisms ... still in just about every sense would be a hard cap for teams," he said. "There would be very few if any teams that would be in a position to spend over that particular number, so that's how we feel about it at this point. It doesn't mean that the negotiation is over, but it's definitely not anywhere close to where we'd be able to agree to it."
The division of revenues is the last of what Stern called the "Big Three" items. Owners are seeking to reduce the players' guarantee from 57 percent in the previous deal.
"We're going to keep talking as long as there's something to keep talking about," Silver said. "In terms of the question can we get a deal done this weekend, there are a lot of issues on the table. ... I'm not sure we can complete a deal this weekend. I think the question is how much progress can we make on significant issues."
Information from ESPN The Magazine NBA writer Chris Broussard, ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein, ESPNNewYork.com contributor Jared Zwerling, ESPNLosAngeles.com writer Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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