Sources: Meeting before deadline off
The NBA and its locked-out players are unlikely to meet again before Monday, almost assuring the first two weeks of regular-season games will be canceled.
Who's to blame for scuttling a proposed weekend meeting between the sides depends on who you ask.
Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that the union asked for the meeting, and the owners agreed -- on the condition the players agree to a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. When the union rejected that stance, the owners said there was no need to meet, the sources said.
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NBA spokesman Tim Frank confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher that the owners are sticking to the 50-50 revenue split. But he said it was the players, not the owners, who declined to meet.
"We told the union today that we were willing to meet as early as Sunday," Frank said. "We also advised them that we were unwilling to move above the 50-50 split of revenues that was discussed between the parties on Tuesday but that we wanted to meet with them to discuss the many remaining open issues. The union declined."
As a result, the first two weeks of the season will almost certainly be canceled.
The players' union was optimistic it would meet with the league one last time, so much so that union president Derek Fisher remained in New York rather than return to Los Angeles after Tuesday's session, sources told ESPN's Bucher.
Commissoner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter talked Wednesday and Thursday and sources say both sides were hoping to meet in one last effort to save the scheduled start of the season on Nov. 1.
But when the owners demanded an up-front agreement to the 50-50 split, which was raised during Tuesday's bargaining session, the players balked.
In comments after Tuesday's bargaining session, Stern said the owners offered a 50-50 split of BRI.
There is disagreement over the details of the proposed 50-50 split. Sources told Broussard the owners actually offered the players 49 percent, increasing to 51 percent based on incentives related to the projected growth of the league.
The players countered with a proposed 51 percent share, increasing to 53 percent, which the owners turned down, sources told Broussard.
Instead of meeting with the owners, Hunter will fly to Los Angeles on Sunday for a Monday meeting with players. Another union official will facilitate a meeting with players in Miami, where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are holding a charity game Saturday night, sources said.
Players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income under the previous collective bargaining agreement, which expired July 1, and have proposed lowering it to 53 percent in a new deal.
No further talks have been scheduled in the lockout, which entered its 99th day on Friday, and Hunter has said it could be a month or two before the sides meet again.
While there had been no formal discussions since Tuesday, there was an expectation they would try to talk sometime before the end of the weekend.
If not, the NBA will have its first shortened season since the 1998-99 schedule was reduced to 50 games by a work stoppage. The entire preseason schedule has already been scrapped.
Each BRI percentage point is worth about $40 million dollars, so the sides are some $120 million apart in the first year of a deal, with the union proposing 53 percent and the league seeking the 50-50 split.
Chris Broussard is a senior NBA writer for ESPN The Magazine. ESPN The Magazine senior NBA writer Ric Bucher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.