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Art Garcia

David Stern chooses to stay optimistic with a potential lockout looming in a year.
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

With LeBron done, labor negotiations top Stern's in-box

Posted Jul 13 2010 9:00AM

LAS VEGAS -- David Stern could have done without "The Decision," and he let the world know as much Monday.

But when it comes to summer happenings, the commissioner has moved past LeBron James' made-for-TV drama. There's much bigger fish to fry, and those issues dominated the day as the league's Board of Governors met at the swanky Palms Hotel.

Collective bargaining and the long-term health of the league is the primary order of business, despite sexier concerns making their way into the room. Stern quickly dismissed talk of player tampering/colluding/conspiring. He also admonished the letter-writing skills of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, docking the franchise $100,000 in the process.

The majority of the proceedings were spent on the next CBA. The current version expires after this season, and the league and Players' Association have exchanged proposals and found little common ground. The league expects to sit down with the players sometime this summer, though a date hasn't been hammered out yet.

Stern didn't discuss the details of the recent union proposal, delivered July 1, though league officials maintain it aims to keep the parameters of the current labor system in place. The players receive 57 percent of gross revenues. The league projects to lose in the neighborhood of $370 million once the books are closed for last season, despite an uptick in overall revenue that led to a higher salary cap for this season.

Stern, though, chooses to stay optimistic with a potential lockout looming in a year.

"We've thus far only had one failure to reach a deal, in 1998," Stern said. "And many of the others have started out poorly, had predictions of doom and gloom, etcetera. You just keep on plugging.

"I think we've got a long way to go, but we have a lot of time to get there. That's the optimism that we're going to maintain until we don't. But I think that's a worthy goal, to maintain the optimism in support of seeking a deal."

Creating a level of parity through a revised revenue sharing system is crucial, Stern said. In a perfect NBA, he added, the system would "result in every team being able to compete on an equal footing with every other team."

Added deputy commissioner Adam Silver, the league's lead negotiator: "We're looking for a system that doesn't require a team to be a taxpayer in order to compete for a championship. And I think it would be fair to say now that if you look at the teams that go late into the playoffs and certainly into the Finals, they are largely taxpayers and certainly there's a correlation between success on the court and payroll.

"It's not a perfect correlation, but we're looking for a system where fans in every market, regardless of their ability to generate revenue, can believe that they have the same opportunity to compete for a championship as a team from a larger market."

The notion that players are being asked to save owners from themselves, especially considering the generous contracts given out to players not moving to South Beach, was met with skepticism by league officials.

"Our owners spend within the system," Stern said. "They're encouraged, praised and otherwise driven to improve their teams. Of course, they have the capacity. It winds up driving them to unprofitability. They want to change that system so when they get driven to it, whatever they do, there won't be losses. That's all."

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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