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As deadline nears, sides preparing for worst-case outcome

By Fran Blinebury,
Posted Jun 29 2011 7:26AM

DALLAS -- With the clock ticking down, NBA owners and their representatives are still hoping for a last-second miracle, but are preparing for a worst-case outcome that could produce the league's first labor lockout in 13 years.

The two sides have agreed to meet one last time Thursday in New York before the Thursday midnight deadline when the collective bargaining agreement expires.

While there was no "lockout vote" per se taken at Tuesday's Board of Governors meeting at the Hilton Anatole, NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver would not rule out the possibility of a shutdown.

"The owners authorized the labor-relations committee to do whatever steps were necessary to effectuate a new collective bargaining agreement," said Silver. "And so that committee has the full authority of all 30 teams to act in whatever way they deem appropriate."

Silver said that during the meeting that lasted nearly four hours, the board heard a presentation from the labor relations committee, led by San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt and a presentation from the revenue sharing committee, led by Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck.

The National Basketball Players Association has been urging the owners to implement revenue sharing as a way to offset what the league says is $300 million in losses among the 30 NBA teams.

"I think it's fair to say the revenue sharing will be considerably more robust after a new collective bargaining agreement is entered into," Stern said. "It's hard. We've discussed principles, ideas and the like. But it's hard to complete one without the other."

According to the owners, a new agreement must come first.

"We did talk about different forms of revenue sharing among the teams," said Silver. But in terms of the players, as we've said before, we've presented our financials ... and showed them our aggregate loss and made clear to them that given the aggregate loss among all teams, roughly $300 million for the season, we cannot possibly correct that problem through revenue sharing.

"It would only be sharing the small profit that the eight teams have among those 22 teams that already lose money. The net would still be a loss of $300 million no matter what we do. So while we've told the players we're happy to share with them our revenue-sharing discussions as they progress among the owners, it will not change the aggregate financial situation we find this league in."

Neither of the men would rule out an extension of the negotiating deadline if they deem some sign of progress is evident at Thursday's meeting in New York.

"Nothing in this world is absolute," Stern said. "We're not talking about likelihoods. We're looking forward to Thursday's meeting. That was the union's choice. We were prepared to go over the weekend."

Negotiations have stalled with the teams far apart on a "soft" salary cap, which was $58 million per team for the 2010-11 season. Under that deal, 57 percent of basketball-related income is designated for players salaries and the owners would like to reduce that to near 50 percent.

The players did not present a new proposal at the last meeting between the sides on Friday and the owners don't know if one will be forthcoming on Thursday.

"We don't know," said Stern. We have a meeting scheduled with them. And we don't know whether they will be making another proposal."

As the deadline draws near, both sides are staring into uncertainty that could affect the product on the court and the popularity of the league.

"Well, I sure would like to see us make a deal," Stern said. "Not making a deal should give everybody apprehension because the way to continue our growth is to come up with a deal that keeps our union as the highest-paid union in the world and gives all of our teams the opportunity to make a profit and makes us a more competitive league. That sounds like the tripod for a win-win-win.

"We'll have to see whether that's a possibility when we meet again with the players on Thursday. There's always time to make a deal."

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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