Posted Feb 16 2011 11:58PM
The next step for the NBA and its players, in their cautious efforts to strike a new collective bargaining agreement, will take place this week as owners and players gather for a vast exchange of ideas and information Friday during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.
The meeting isn't a negotiation as much as it is a potential starting point for constructing a new CBA before the current one expires June 30. Unlike a typical session populated by league executives, the ownership committee and the Players Association's negotiating team, this meeting is open to everyone with something at stake.
A number of the league's best-known players, along with other players in town for the All-Star festivities, are expected to attend the afternoon get-together, mirroring the scene last year in Dallas. This time, however, the owners won't be represented only by the labor relations committee, headed by San Antonio Spurs chairmen Peter Holt. The league has invited other principal owners to take part and contribute to the dialogue.
Having both parties in the same room to discuss the issues is the focus. Getting into specific percentages and terms of an agreement likely won't take place Friday. The best-case scenario is that the two sides will emerge from the meeting with a more detailed schedule of future sessions. They have not met formally since November.
"The league is hopeful that it's a constructive meeting and ... the meeting is a path toward a deal, with greater intensity and sense of urgency," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver told NBA.com.
Gloom and doom have been predicted on the labor front, based on the minimal progress made over the last year. The league is asking for wholesale changes to the current economic system, while the National Basketbal Players Association has countered that the current setup is working and only minor adjustments are needed. Both sides have acknowledged the very real prospect of a work stoppage.
"We would welcome a sense of urgency in the context of progress toward a deal, but we have not seen any sense of urgency over the last seven months since we made a proposal," NBPA spokesman Dan Wasserman told NBA.com. "Until we do, we're very much focused on preparation for a lockout."
The league presented its initial CBA offer 13 months ago. It called for hard salary cap, a rollback of salaries/benefits of $750 million to $800 million per year, and a reduction in guaranteed contracts. The union rejected the owners' plan in February during All-Star weekend in Dallas.
The Players Association countered in July with a proposal that included reducing, by an unspecified amount, the players' share of basketball-related income. That now stands at 57 percent. The union also presented several ideas that would promote more player movement.
The league said the union plan was too similar to the current system.
While a chasm remains, there is cause for some optimism heading into Los Angeles. Initially, the league and players weren't scheduled to meet in L.A. Those plans changed in January.
Now, what happens in L.A. could help determine whether the gap between players and owners grows larger, or if the two sides begin to move toward a new labor peace.
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