NEW YORK -- Is it time for a deal to go down in the NBA labor talks Thursday?
But probably not.
After Wednesday's meeting among lawyers and staff for both sides at the National Basketbal Players Association offices in Harlem, the top negotiators and power brokers for both sides will reconvene in Manhattan Thursday for a critical bargaining session amid the threat of imminent canceling of training camps and preseason games.
It will be the same group of negotiators that had made significant progress in a series of three high-level meetings that began Aug. 31, only to have the talks break down last Tuesday when the full bargaining committees could not move the dialogue past the players' resistance to a hard salary cap and the owners' insistence on one. Commissioner David Stern, deputy commisssioner Adam Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt and deputy general counsel Dan Rube -- the league's top authority on contracts, the cap and system issues -- will represent the league while union executive director Billy Hunter, president Derek Fisher, general counsel Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy will represent the players.
While the small groups seemed to have been on the verge of a compromise after the three meetings leading up to last week's setback, intransigence on both sides scuttled the progress. Hunter's refusal to move ahead with an economic concession unless the owners agreed to the pre-condition that the soft-cap system remain intact caused league negotiators to retrench and reject the ultimatum. From the owners' standpoint, the full bargaining committee that convened last Tuesday in New York did not signal the same willingness to compromise as the small group led by Stern, Silver and Holt had previously expressed, according to a person directly linked to the talks.
The key issues Thursday are two-fold, and most certainly are intertwined. For the players, did union leadership emerge from a meeting last week in Las Vegas with enough clout to resist the owners' push for a hard cap while at the same time being willing to negotiate enough system changes to move the dialogue forward? Did league negotiators return from a Board of Governors meeting in Dallas with the authority to divulge to the union details of their revenue sharing plans while achieving enough unanimity among owners to move forward with the framework of a compromise?
To borrow a phrase from Hunter, it is "blood issue" time for both sides.