NEW YORK — To be continued …
NBA players and owners met for nearly 12 hours Wednesday and “stopped the clock” at 1 a.m. EST, agreeing to resume negotiations at noon Thursday.
“Nothing was worked out today,” commissioner David Stern said. “I would not read into this optimism or pessimism.”
With the players having already indicated a willingness to accept a 50-50 split of basketball related income, the sides discussed a litany of unresolved system issues. Stern had issued a deadline of “the close of business on Wednesday” for the union to accept its most recent proposal or have it taken off the table, but that ultimatum ended up being written in pencil, not stone.
“There was enough give and take on both sides to merit us both coming back tomorrow,” union director Billy Hunter said. “There are so many issues that haven’t been resolved, it’s pretty copious. The session could go for another couple days.”
So the lockout endures into Day 133, stopped clock or no stopped clock.
Another 12 hours of talks are in the books, and the push to get this mess past the finish line endures.
”I don’t want to talk about our current state of mind or where we are,” said Stern, who was joined in the negotiating session by just one owner, Peter Holt of the San Antonio Spurs (the chairman of the owners’ labor relations committee.)
“At the end of the negotiating session, whether it ends today or tomorrow, that’s when our offer reverts. We trying to demonstrate our good faith, and I think the union is trying to show its good faith,” Stern said. “Every day that we lose another game it just enhances the case to make a deal and causes both sides to try to make a deal. We’re here, the clock is stopped, and we’re trying to see if we can get something to go back to our respective sides with.”
ESPN.com’s Henry Abbott may have witnessed a clue at to where this is headed.
“As he left the news conference early Thursday morning, after 12 hours of bargaining, Stern stopped in the crowded hallway to converse with union economist Kevin Murphy, who says he is trying to arrange his schedule to be here for the next session to start at noon. Stern encouraged Murphy to show up, saying, “It will be a good day to be here.”
It was late. Stern was tired. The comment was vague. It didn’t sound like a real promise of a deal,” Abbott wrote. ”But it certainly didn’t sound like a guy preparing to blow apart the talks with a dramatically lower offer, either.”
The sides had identified five key system issues on which they were still apart (David Aldridge of NBA-TV and Turner Sports, and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported progress was made on three of those issues), but in actuality there are a plethora of lesser issues that still must be agreed upon — things such as player discipline, the draft, age limits, minimum veteran salaries, etc.
“There are many other issues of importance, and so it just behooves us to make sure that all of those issues are put on the table, together with system and economic split, and see from that rather lengthy list whether we can make a deal. We are not failing and we are not succeeding,” Stern said. ”We felt we should get a good night’s sleep and resume tomorrow.”
As it says above: To be continued.