NBA mediation to resume Thursday

Updated: October 20, 2011, 1:43 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- A second lengthy day of mediation between the NBA's owners and locked-out players ended Wednesday without a deal, but talks are scheduled to resume Thursday, federal mediator George Cohen said.

A third day of talks is set to begin at 2 p.m. ET. The league's board of governors met Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

After a 16-hour session with a federal mediator that lasted until after 2 a.m. ET Wednesday morning, the sides resumed negotiations aimed at ending the lockout at about 10 a.m. and continued meeting until about 7 p.m. The two sides met for more than 24 hours in a 32-hour span.

Cohen said players and owners met in a variety of settings during mediation, sometimes in subcommittees, other times in groups as large as 40 people.

"Everyone is extremely focused on the core issues, the difficult issues that confront them," he said.

Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that the owners are once again offering a 49-51 range of the basketball-related income to the players. That is essentially where the players would get a minimum of 49 percent of BRI or a max of 51 percent depending on how much revenue the league takes in that year.

Although some of the system issues differ in this offer by the owners, the players are likely to reject a 49-51 band just as they did two weeks ago.

Also, while the sides haven't agreed to anything, the owners have been open to accepting a $5 million midlevel exception, sources told Broussard. That's down from $5.8 million under the old agreement but up from the $3.4 million the owners had been offering.

At about 5:15 p.m., commissioner David Stern, league president Joel Litvin and Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck left the talks to attend an owners' planning committee at another midtown hotel. That meeting had been postponed so that the owners and players could meet with the mediator.

Talks between the league and union continued, however, with deputy commissioner Adam Silver and San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, and the other owners on the league's labor committee.

Grousbeck chairs the planning committee, which is charged with developing a new revenue sharing system for basketball. More robust revenue sharing is a key aspect of the economic reforms the NBA intends to implement this offseason.

Stern has said owners will have an expanded revenue sharing package among teams once the collective bargaining agreement with the players has been completed.

Stern had wanted to bring a deal to his owners this week, otherwise he warned more games might be canceled. Already the first two weeks of the season -- exactly 100 games -- have been lost.

The sides have been divided mostly by two issues, the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system.

Players believe owners' attempts to make the luxury tax more punitive and limit the use of spending exceptions will effectively create a hard salary cap, which they say they will refuse to accept. Also, each side has formally proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

With the sides unable to make any real headway in recent weeks on those two divisive issues, they welcomed the presence of Cohen, who also spent 16 days trying to resolve the NFL's labor dispute in February and March.

"The discussions have been direct and constructive, and as far as we are concerned, we are here to continue to help assist the parties to endeavor to reach an agreement," Cohen said.

Their first day with him produced a bargaining session that was more than twice as long as any previous one since owners locked out players when the old collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.

Neither side commented on Tuesday's talks at Cohen's request, and NBA spokesman Mike Bass said Cohen asked that request be honored Wednesday as well.

Without a deal this week, Stern might have to decide when a next round of cancellations would be necessary. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 have been scrapped, costing players about $170 million in salaries.

ESPN.com TrueHoop writer Henry Abbott, ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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