NEW YORK — Billy Hunter told the world the sides in the NBA lockout are “within striking distance of a deal,” and he told SheridanHoops.com even more: “The BRI split is the very first thing we are going to try to tackle in the morning.”
Owners and players met for 7 1/2 more hours Thursday after putting in a nearly 15 1/2 hour session that began Wednesday and ended after 3 a.m. Thursday. Exhausted after the 23 hours of meetings, the sides called it a night relatively early and decided to resume negotiations at 10:30 a.m. EDT.
Once again, the sides stayed away from the most thorny issue: The split of revenues known as basketball-related income. The owners are offering a 50/50 deal, the players are asking for 52.5 percent, and hardliners on both sides believe the other side should be giving the most when they try to meet somewhere in the middle.
The subject has not been discussed since last Thursday, when the owners’ 50/50 offer was presented as a “take it or leave it” ultimatum and led to the acrimonious breakup of the talks.
They have taken to calling it “the elephant in the room,” and the elephant will be front and center first thing in the morning, Hunter said as he left the talks.
The sides have made progress on many salary cap system issues, but how punitive the new luxury tax will be remains a particularly sore sticking point. The 23 hours have been spent methodically plodding through several other system issues, and a middle ground still needs to be found on several of the particulars (e.g. maximum annual raises, which the union wants to keep at 10.5 percent for unrestricted free agents and 8 percent for others. The owners have been asking that those percentages be cut to 4.5 and 3, respectively, and it is unclear if they have moved off that position).
“We’ve spent a lot of time on the system the in the last two days, and I expect that tomorrow we’ll be in a position to see whether we made adequate progress on that to be able to turn to the split,” commissioner David Stern said. “I think that we are not close enough right now (on system issues), but I expect with a good night’s sleep we’ll both come in with resolve to get closer.”
Stern was asked straight up whether it would be a failure of the sides didn’t get a deal done in the next couple days.
To which deputy commissioner Adam Silver decided to pose a question himself: “Could you elaborate?
“No,” Stern said. “No elaboration, but the fair answer and the direct and honest answer is yes.”
So to recap, there is no deal yet on several system issues, there has been no discussion of the BRI split — but there also have been no doomsday game cancellation press releases from the NBA’s media office.
Friday, obviously, is crucial.
“For deal-making purposes, everything’s on the table and there’s no question that trades are often made when you have the final pieces of a deal that you need to put together,” Silver said. “But we remain apart on both, so from that standpoint we’re disappointed.”
Said Stern: “There’s no guarantees we’ll get it done, but we’re going to give it one heck of a shot tomorrow. And I think Billy and the union’s negotiators feel the same way. I know that ours do. We’re prepared to negotiate over everything.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Stern said.
So is the entire basketball world.