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Tag:Billy Hunter
Posted on: February 19, 2011 12:46 am
 

Sources: LeBron calls out owners at CBA meeting

LOS ANGELES – Just before the All-Star break, LeBron James expressed hopefulness that progress could be made in the NBA’s labor talks so a lockout could be avoided. On Friday, James willingly accepted the leadership role that comes with his stature and called out certain hard-line owners for being unrealistic in their demands. 

James was one of several particularly vocal players in Friday’s bargaining meeting, and sources told CBSSports.com his chief complaint was with hard-line owners who’ve bought their teams in recent years and are now trying to dramatically alter the financial system they willingly bought into. 

“This has been a 57 percent system for years,” said a person who was in the meeting, paraphrasing James’ message. “This has been a system with guaranteed contracts forever. What did you guys expect? What did you think you were getting into?” 

That was among the highlights in an otherwise uneventful bargaining meeting, in which no actual negotiation was accomplished. Though the list of players in attendance was far longer than at last year’s All-Star meeting – in addition to the executive committee and some of the same top-flight stars who attended in Dallas, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Baron Davis, and Al Horford were among those in the room – the tone was much less contentious. But a compromise is no closer to occurring. 

“I’m worried about the league,” Dwyane Wade said. “It’s not just about myself, it’s about the future of the NBA. We want to make sure this game continues to grow and continues to prosper. We don’t want lockouts. We want this game to go on for many, many years, and we understand that a deal has to be done. Both sides have to come to an agreement. Neither side is going to come to an agreement if we can’t meet halfway.” 

Though National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said the owners’ hard-line position “kind of softened” by the end of the meeting, the owners still are no closer to making a second proposal to counter the players’ proposal. The owners haven’t offered anything new in terms of a formal proposal since submitting their initial slash-and-burn document 13 months ago. 

“I don’t know that there’s going to be a formal, written proposal coming from them any time soon,” Hunter said. 

And absent that, nor will there be one from the players. 

“We won’t submit another proposal” before the owners do, Hunter said. “That’s out of the question. … If we’re going to avoid a lockout, they’ve got to move off the dime.” 

Hunter said he will meet with commissioner David Stern next week after the All-Star break and schedule a series of negotiating sessions that will begin in the next 1-2 weeks. 

“I’m going to tell my guys to be prepared for a lockout,” Hunter said. “… We’ve got four months. And we’re going to see what we can do in the next four months. If it comes together, good. If it doesn’t, then we put our players on notice.” 

Hunter did not back down from his previous prediction that a lockout is 99 percent certain, but said, “We’re going to negotiate. We’re going to make every effort. I keep saying the same thing. I’m beginning to hear myself, like an echo. We’re going to make every effort to negotiate. We want a deal. Our guys do not want to be locked out. But given no choice … if you don’t give us any choice and our only alternative is to fight, then we’ll fight. 

“If it means that we’ll have to lose a season to get a deal we can live with,” Hunter said, “we’re willing to do that. We don’t want to, but we’ll suffer some pain.” 

The owners James and other players were taking aim at in the meeting were the new, hard-line group that has come into the NBA in recent years – including the owner of James’ former team, Dan Gilbert. Owners like Gilbert, the Suns’ Robert Sarver, the Celtics’ Wyc Grousbeck and the Wizards’ Ted Leonsis weren’t around for the last lockout and rely more on the financial success of their NBA teams than the old-school owners ever did. 

It is those new owners, sources say, who are pushing the hardest for dramatic changes, including a hard cap and a reduction in contract length and guarantees. Sources say the players in the meeting were incredulous that owners are suddenly so hellbent on changing the rules they signed up for. The owners offered no response to the challenges issued by LeBron and several other players, sources said, but listened to their concerns in what was termed a “cordial” and “amicable” meeting. 

Hunter also said that when the union’s University of Chicago economist asked owners if they would be asking for the same changes if they were making more money, the response was, “Yes.” This was the most significant moment in the meeting, Hunter said, with owners revealing that their goal is not to cut losses but to increase profits. 

“We may never have a consensus on what the numbers mean,” Hunter said. 

Two key issues that are expected to become contentious – a possible franchise tag and the contraction of teams in underperforming markets – did not get much attention in Friday’s meeting. But Hunter reiterated his insistence that the players will not agree to a deal without seeing details of a vastly improved revenue-sharing system – the creation of which the owners believe should be handled separately from bargaining. 

As for an issue that affects a certain free agent-to-be who faces possibly losing millions if he opts out of his contract rather than sign an extension before June 30, sources say Carmelo Anthony emerged from the meeting with no more knowledge about the issue than he came in with. Earlier in the day, when asked about the risk of entering free agency in the first year of a potentially punitive CBA, Anthony replied, “That’s why I’m about to go meet with Billy Hunter.” 

“You’ve got guys who’ve negotiated their contracts this past year – LeBron, Chris Bosh, etc.,” Hunter said. “Does that the mean that if a guy like Carmelo comes up while we’re negotiating and if the franchise player tag gets introduced and adopted, that he now suffer as a consequence because he can’t go out on the market? I don’t know if that’s acceptable to me.”
Posted on: December 24, 2010 10:04 pm
 

NBPA prez Fisher disagrees with contraction talk

It didn't take long for LeBron James' idea of creating a new golden age of basketball by eliminating teams to reach the ears of National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher

"I agree that the '80s was a great time for NBA basketball," Fisher told reporters Friday after practice at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "But I don't agree that contraction or arbitrarily trying to get Hall of Fame or All-Star guys all on the same team is necessarily how you re-create one of the greatest times in NBA history." 

Via the Los Angeles Times Lakers blog: Derek Fisher disagrees with LeBron James endorsing league contraction

When asked Thursday night in Phoenix – by me, if you must know – whether the anticipation of Saturday’s clash between the Lakers and free-agent-fortified Heat was validation for the decision by James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to team up in South Beach, James went on an articulate and controversial tangent about how the NBA’s overall talent is “watered down.” 

“Hopefully the league can figure out one day how it can go back to the situation like it was in the ‘80s,” James said. “… The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is. You had more [star] players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game. I don’t ever think it’s bad for the league when guys decide that they want to do some greatness for the better of what we call a team sport.” 

Via CBSSports.com's BergerSphere: LeBron: Contraction would be 'great' for NBA

When it was pointed out to James that the NBA only had 24 teams back then, as opposed to the 30 it has now, James said, “That’s why. That’s my point.” 

Unsolicited, he then listed some of the teams in the ‘80s that had multiple All-Stars or Hall of Famers. But his soliloquy took a decidedly anti-union direction when he went so far as to name teams that are “not that good right now” – Minnesota and New Jersey were his examples – and spoke about what would happen if you took the good players on those teams and put them on better teams. Such a move would “shrink the guys” James said – a nice way of saying jobs would be lost through contraction, a concept that league negotiators have already confirmed is on the table as part of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. 

“I’m not saying let's take New Jersey and let's take Minnesota out of the league,” James said. “But hey, you guys are not stupid. I'm not stupid, but I know what would be great for the league." 

Fisher, whose union clearly would oppose such a move, said he disagreed with LeBron’s comments but didn’t believe they will hurt the NBPA’s cause in negotiations. 

"I don't think it's my place to tell one of our guys what they should be thinking or feeling or saying,” Fisher said. “But I don't necessarily agree with it." 

One of the biggest stars in the NBA talking about making the league great again by concentrating the talent on fewer teams? That’s certainly something the 30 worse players in the league can’t be happy about – considering that’s how many jobs would be lost if two teams were contracted. 

It’s also hard to see how the overall product wouldn’t be better. That’s something Fisher, union chief Billy Hunter, commissioner David Stern and his 30 (for now) owners will have to figure out.
Posted on: November 15, 2010 9:42 am
Edited on: November 15, 2010 9:52 am
 

Kobe rips owners: 'Look in the mirror'

LOS ANGELES – With labor talks reaching a critical stage between now and the All-Star break, Kobe Bryant weighed in for the first time Sunday night with some strong words for NBA owners.

“I think the owners need to look in the mirror,” Bryant told CBSSports.com when asked about the $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries being sought by the owners. “They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments. They’ve got to look in the mirror and decide what they want to do with the sport, and we as employees will show up and do what we’ve got to do.”

Bryant, the highest-paid player in the league under what is likely to be his final contract, is scheduled to join Michael Jordan as the league’s only $30 million players in the final year of the deal in 2013-14. Asked where he stands in the labor dispute that could be more punitive to stars like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose – who likely won’t get new contracts until a new CBA is in place – Bryant said, “I’m going to fight for our players.”

“It’s about making sure we have the best deal going forward,” Bryant said. “That’s my stance and that’s not going to change. I’m not going to waver. It’s about taking care of the generation that’s coming after us. That’s what the guys before us tried to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m not going to waver from that.”

These were the strongest words yet spoken publicly by an NBA player about the owners’ pursuit of a hard cap, enormous salary reductions and a rollback of existing contracts. Coming from Bryant, they carried weight – both with the players and owners.

“The onus is not on us,” Bryant said. “People are trying to put that responsibility on us. It’s not our responsibility. It’s the owners’ job. This is what they do.”

Bryant’s vow to fight for players who didn’t get max deals under the current system and will likely have to accept less in a new CBA comes as a divide is forming between two camps – the paid, and the not-yet-paid. CBSSports.com has learned that players like Howard and Anthony, Chris Paul and Rose are growing wary of possibly getting shut out of the kind of max money that this past summer’s free agents scored. If owners aren’t successful in getting across-the-board rollbacks, but do negotiate a reduction in future max salaries and guarantees, the players subject to the haircut are “not going to have it,” according to an influential person involved in the players’ side of bargaining strategy.

“They’re not going to allow those guys to sneak in a year before collective bargaining and say, ‘We got paid,’” the person said. “They can’t have their cake and eat it, too. There are too many powerful players whose contracts are coming up to let that happen.”

Bryant isn’t choosing sides in that debate; he just wants a fair deal for everyone. His point was primarily directed at owners who went on a spending spree this past summer before quickly shifting gears to claim player costs must be brought down to stem hundreds of millions in annual losses. And his comments come at a time when, as on the court, Bryant perhaps senses that the bargaining game is about to get interesting. Commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, union chief Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher of the Lakers will hold a 2-on-2 bargaining session Thursday to ramp up the intensity of talks heading into All-Star weekend, a key time-stamp in both sides’ efforts to avoid a lockout when the current deal expires on June 30, 2011.

Bryant’s comments also represent the strongest signal of commitment from the players since multiple All-Stars made a surprise appearance at a bargaining session during All-Star weekend in Dallas last February.

“If they’re gonna pay players to perform and this that and the other, then do it,” Bryant said. “It’s not on us.”

Posted on: November 14, 2010 10:56 pm
 

Heavy hitters set for Nov. 18 CBA meeting


LOS ANGELES -- As union leaders and ownership prepare for a pivotal bargaining session during All-Star weekend here, both sides are first gearing up for a two-on-two session involving the heaviest hitters in the negotiations.

Commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver will match wits with union chief Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher of the Lakers on Thursday, Fisher told CBSSports.com. Fisher, who will be in Minneapolis on an off-day during the Lakers' road trip through the Midwest, will participate via conference call.

"The smaller meetings allow us to get more accomplished," Fisher said. "We're going to be hard at work on this between now and All-Star weekend, that's for sure."

Since the last formal bargaining session in New York, the two sides have begun holding smaller staff meetings to address specifics of each side's proposal. But Thursday's meeting of the minds will be the first session involving Stern, Silver and Hunter since Stern dropped his bombshell after last month's Board of Governors meeting that owners are seeking a $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries.

Stern subsequently confirmed a CBSSports.com report that owners are considering contraction as one option to cut costs -- a threat that is viewed by most parties in the talks as a negotiating tactic -- and a person involved in bargaining told CBSSports.com that owners are seeking a rollback of existing contracts as part of a new CBA. The union has stridently rejected the owners' position on salary reductions, and a person with knowledge of the union's strategy has told CBSSports.com that the owners' bid for a hard salary cap is a "total deal breaker" for the players.

There will be plenty to talk about Thursday with time running out before All-Star weekend, which both sides have acknowledged will be a crucial turning point in the talks. If significant progress isn't made by All-Star weekend, both sides have acknowledged that the likelihood of a lockout when the current deal expires on June 30, 2011 will increase significantly.
Posted on: October 22, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Stern's tipoff: Let the rhetoric begin

The typically rosy tone of David Stern's tipoff conference call was mostly gone Friday, replaced by some more gloomy proclamations even as the commissioner admitted what should be obvious: 'Tis the season for rhetoric.

Stern didn't back away from his assertion a day earlier that the league is seeking to cut player salaries by $750 million to $800 million in a new collective bargaining agreement -- though he retroactively tried to downplay it as not news, since the figure was included in the owners' initial proposal to the players in January. He also confirmed a CBSSports.com report that contraction is "on the table" in negotiations with the players as a last-ditch means to restore competitive balance and profitability.

"The issue of contraction is one that has to be discussed in the context of collective bargaining with the players," Stern said. "Whether or if there are markets where there may not be buyers for teams that are looking to be sold, that raises the issue of contraction. It’s sensitive subject for me because I've spent 27 years in this job working very hard not only to maintain all of our teams, but along the way add a few. But I think that’s a subject that will be on the table with the players as we look to see what [is] the optimum way to present our game and are there cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic environment. We’re not spending a lot of time on it."

But perhaps the most revealing moment in Stern's second straight day under oath in the court of labor negotiations came when he admitted what veterans of past labor strife know all too well: Nothing gets done until the last minute, and now is when the rhetoric runs deep.

After Stern's $750 million rocket made its way to the National Basketball Players Association offices Thursday -- and to union chief Billy Hunter's ear on the road -- the union issued a statement from Hunter that read, in part:

"If the owners maintain their position, it will inevitably result in a lockout and the cancellation of part or all of the 2011-2012 season. The players and union will prepare accordingly."

When I asked Stern if he shared this grim view, the commissioner said, "I don't believe that Billy wrote that because he wouldn't threaten me with a lockout And all I can say is that's what negotiations are for and we're looking forward to our next negotiating session."

So, this is par for the course, I asked?

"Absolutely," Stern said. "It's classic negotiating rhetoric, probably on both sides."

Of all the words spoken in the past 48 hours about the NBA's labor strife, those last four were the most revealing and important: "probably on both sides."

As Stern has pointed out numerous times, this isn't his first rodeo. He's participated in so many bargaining sessions that he could play the accompanying background music in his sleep. If I'm scoring this one at home, I say both sides have done a masterful job so far. The union has done an effective job of discrediting the owners' cries of poverty, and Stern is at the top of his game when it comes to tilting the negotiating table this way and that until the final result lands in the middle: a deal everyone can live with.

Stern and his army of lawyers and accountants threw everything including the kitchen sink in the owners' first proposal. On Thursday, he went public with just how much owners seek to reduce player salaries. Now, the old-fashioned trick of threatening to nuke struggling franchises -- and dozens of corresponding player jobs -- has entered the equation.

By the time he's finished, Stern will have given so much of that back to the players that they'll feel like they won. As Stern said Friday, "We know we're going to get a deal done."

Just brace yourselves, because there's a whole lot of rhetoric left to be spewed between now and June 30, 2011.

Somewhere underneath it all, there will be a pretty interesting basketball season.



Posted on: September 22, 2010 6:09 pm
 

Hunter: CBA progress needed by All-Star

NEW YORK – After a three-hour bargaining session with NBA owners Wednesday, complete with a reportedly off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday” to recognize commissioner David Stern’s 68th, players union chief Billy Hunter set forth the first unofficial negotiating deadline for making progress toward a new labor deal: All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.

If the owners and players aren’t able to “develop some momentum” and “resolve some of the issues” by February, Hunter said, “We’ll know what the bottom line’s going to be.”

Both sides know that bottom line will be a lockout, the first the league has experienced since the only failed labor negotiation in NBA history in 1998.

“I would anticipate that by All-Star, we should know whether there’s a likelihood of a deal,” Hunter said outside the Omni Berkshire Place hotel, where owners and players conducted their second bargaining session in six weeks.

As was the case Aug. 12, the meeting was characterized as “cordial and productive” by union attorney Jeffrey Kessler and others, with Hunter going so far as to call the talks “amicable.” Still, there were no significant breakthroughs on how to arrive at a new agreement that both sides would be willing to sign to forestall a work stoppage after the 2010-11 season. The current CBA expires on June 30, 2011.

“Progress was definitely made,” said Derek Fisher of the Lakers, the president of the National Basketball Players Association. Fisher also told CBSSports.com that, unlike the NFL Players Association, the NBA players have yet to take the step of collecting signatures to authorize decertification of the union – a legal tactic that would challenge the league’s right to lock out the players.

“Decertification is an option that is available to us, but we’re genuinely focused on the positive side of getting a deal done,” Fisher said. “The only time decertification has ever even been mentioned for us is as a last resort and something that’s our only choice. Right now we view our choices as working as hard as we can to get a deal done. That’s why we haven’t taken that step.”

If nothing else, Wednesday’s bargaining session did nothing to disrupt the constructive tone of the talks, which have progressed cordially after a contentious meeting at the most recent All-Star weekend in Dallas. A working lunch midway through the session, in fact, was punctuated by serenading the 68-year-old Stern for his birthday. Somehow, the opposing sides were able to agree on how to divide up the cake.

“There’s, at least to me, an optimistic feel to how things are going at this point,” Fisher said.

But the owners and players made little progress on actually closing the “gulf, not a gap,” as Stern described it during the August meeting, on major issues such as the players’ share of revenue, the proposed imposition of a hard salary cap, and drastic reductions in maximum salaries and guaranteed deals. The next step, Hunter said, is to break down into smaller groups to begin tackling “the smaller issues that are not quite as divisive.” Hunter and deputy commissioner Adam Silver will begin scheduling those meetings in the next two days, Hunter said.

The players also for the first time had a chance to walk the owners through their proposal, which was submitted to the league in June. Silver called the process “conciliatory and constructive,” but said, “There remains an enormous economic gap between our two proposals.” Silver also took issue with Hunter’s notion that All-Star weekend represented any kind of deadline.

“I think deadlines are helpful,” Silver said. “I don’t necessarily agree that All-Star is a deadline for us. As you know, this deal expires at the end of June. So we view that as the ultimate deadline.”
Posted on: August 12, 2010 9:00 pm
 

What new ground was broken in CBA talks?


NEW YORK -- With star-studded attendance and a conciliatory tone, collective bargaining talks Thursday between the NBA's owners and players changed the attitude, if not the substance, of the debate. Even with union vice president Mo Evans calling the players "partners" with the owners -- what's next, LeBron James and Dan Gilbert double-dating? -- the two sides are still far from a deal to avoid a lockout after the 2010-11 season.

But quietly, modest breakthroughs were made Thursday on several big-picture points relevant to the new financial structure owners and players are trying to create. According to sources with knowledge of the negotiations, here are the key points that owners and players actually agreed on -- or at least, agreed to disagree:

* First, there seems to be agreement on both sides that something needs to be done to improve the competitive balance of the league. How to do it, however, remains hotly contested. The players believe many of the owners’ woes can be solved through broader revenue sharing, for which they included a plan in their proposal. The owners continue to believe that how the owners divvy up hundreds of millions in annual losses doesn’t solve the problem that expenses are too high. According to sources, the owners seem to be hunkered down in their pursuit of shorter contracts with less guaranteed money – and they appear to be focusing on those issues even more than reducing the 57 percent share of basketball-related income (BRI) that the players receive. In the owners’ view, shorter contracts and the ability to restructure them midway through – a provision that exists in the NFL’s CBA – would help teams become more competitive faster. The players acknowledge the problem with the current system when teams burdened with bad contracts get “stuck in the mud,” according to a source, and need 3-4 years to clean up the mess. But the players disagree with the owners’ desire to shorten contracts and limit guarantees, even with the long history under the current CBA of players with declining ability becoming contractual albatrosses for their teams. Tracy McGrady and his $24 million salary getting dumped on the Knicks as an expiring asset last season is an extreme, but not rare example.

* With top players such as Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Richard Jefferson taking significant pay cuts on new deals this summer, there also seems to be common belief that payrolls will decline during the 2010-11 season for the second consecutive year – even after the biggest free-agent spectacle in league history. Since some rosters aren’t complete and the NBA’s fiscal year hasn’t closed yet, the amount of the decrease isn’t known, and the two sides differ on what the amount will be. The owners seem ready to acknowledge a 1 or 2 percent decline, while the players believe 5 percent is more realistic.

* Regardless of the amount of the payroll decline, one team executive said owners were rattled by the bold free-agent coup pulled off by star players this summer – with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teaming up in Miami – and have become focused on limiting player movement as a result. Any efforts to curb players’ free-agent rights would be staunchly opposed by the union. But there is a real sense from the owners, according to this executive, that they’re determined to write provisions into the new CBA that would provide stronger disincentives for free agents to leave their teams.

“If there’s anything I’d love to see happen in collective bargaining, it’s for the term ‘free agent’ to go away and I’d love to see the term ‘mid-level’ go away,” the executive said. “There’s nothing free about it, when you’re making the mid-level, you’re making more than two-thirds of the league. Mid-level sounds like mid-major, Holiday Inn, Applebee’s. It’s inappropriately termed.”

* Sources also revealed new details of the players’ proposal, which National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has declined to specifically discuss publicly. In perhaps the first concession of the year-long negotiations, sources say the players have proposed issuing owners a credit on their books for capital improvements to their arenas. The Knicks, who are investing as much as $850 million to renovate Madison Square Garden, would benefit handsomely from such a provision. The players presented this as a way to encourage owners to modernize old arenas and thus create additional revenue streams.

Posted on: August 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2010 4:49 pm
 

Stars come out for NBA labor talks (UPDATE)

NEW YORK – NBA owners and players met for 3 1-2 hours Thursday in a bargaining session that didn’t result in any progress toward a deal but did help change the tenor of the debate: The star players did show up, and they’re engaged.

In a surprise development, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Joe Johnson and Chauncey Billups joined the players’ executive committee in the bargaining session – a reprisal of their appearance at the most recent meeting at All-Star weekend in Dallas.

“I think it’s important for all of us, as the faces of the NBA, to be involved in the negotiations and what’s going on,” Anthony said as he exited the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel on 52nd Street, to waves and cheers from passersby. “Our future’s in jeopardy if we can’t come to a mutual agreement.”

According to sources familiar with the players’ strategy, the stars decided to take a break from their appearance schedule associated with the World Basketball Festival, a four-day event in conjunction with Team USA training camp, to avoid the perception that they aren’t going to be involved in the bargaining process for the long haul. Some observers believed that the players’ appearance at the All-Star bargaining table in February would be a one-time deal, something that the stars of the league wanted to dispel, sources said. Wade and Billups were the first to commit, followed by James, Anthony and Johnson.

“It’s important to have representation of all the guys in the NBA and not just ourselves,” said Hawks guard Mo Evans, a member of the executive committee. “It was great to have those guys interested in what’s going on in the league. We’re all involved. We’re going to leave this game to someone else – whether it’s two years from now, five years from now, or 10 years from now. We want to leave this game in a better place than when we got it.”

According to people in the bargaining session, there was far less rancor and rhetoric than in the session at All-Star weekend, when the players rejected the owners’ initial proposal. The word “lockout” was thrown around less frequently, too.

UPDATE: But both sides acknowledge that there's much ground to be covered. According to one person present, commissioner David Stern proclaimed at one point during the meeting, “There’s a gulf, not a gap.”

However, in an encouraging sign, the league and union issued a joint statement after the bargaining session, as opposed to individual missives: "The NBA and NBPA held a four-hour bargaining meeting today that included constructive dialogue and a productive exchange of information. While we still have much work to do, it was encouraging how many players and owners participated in the process and all pledged to continue to work together. We all agreed to meet again before training camp.”

Still, while the tenor of the dialogue improved, there was virtually no progress on the issues that keep both sides far apart on a new deal to replace the current CBA, which expires on June 30, 2011. The owners and players continue to disagree on the extent of the NBA’s stated losses – the latest figure the league used Thursday, according to a source, was $380 million during the 2009-10 season – and how the pie should be divided. Under the current agreement, players get 57 percent of overall revenues, known as basketball-related income (BRI).

It was the first bargaining session since All-Star weekend, and the first time owners and players discussed face-to-face the players’ proposal that was submitted to the owners last month. There was little concrete discussion of specific issues, such as the owners’ desire to institute a hard salary cap with shorter contracts and less guaranteed money. Both sides agreed to meet again before the start of training camp, and then break into smaller groups to tackle specific bargaining issues.

“They generally objected to the entire proposal,” Hunter said. “They said they didn’t agree with it. We kind of anticipated that. But at the same time, it lends itself to more discussion so they all felt as though we did make progress in terms of our willingness to talk to one another as opposed to at one another. And so to that extent, things felt a lot better in the room – the atmosphere, the environment, the nature of the discussions – more so than in February. Things have thawed a lot.”

In addition to the stars, the players were represented by the members of their executive committee: president Derek Fisher, treasurer James Jones, and vice presidents Adonal Foyle, Keyon Dooling, Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, Chris Paul and Evans. The owners were represented by Peter Holt (Spurs), Glen Taylor (Timberwolves), Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics), Jeanie Buss (Lakers), James Dolan (Knicks), George Shinn (Hornets), Stan Kroenke (Nuggets) and Larry Miller (Trail Blazers). Suns owner Robert Sarver, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide canceled at the last minute to address personal business.

“It was great conversation, great dialogue going back and forth, great communication,” Anthony said. “So hopefully we can come to an agreement soon.”







 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com