NEW YORK -- Full committees of NBA owners and players met Tuesday with a hint of progress on the economic split but no signs of compromise on the hard salary cap owners are trying to impose.
After five hours -- most of it spent with each side symbolically huddled amongst themselves, apropos of their deeply entrenched bargaining stances -- National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher warned that it appears the season will not start on time. Hunter said he has advised players that they "may have to sit out half the season before we get a deal."
"We can't come out of here thinking that training camps and preseason are going to start on time," Fisher said.
Commissioner David Stern did not share that dour outlook, saying emphatically that owners would not cancel training camps or preseason games at the Board of Governors meeting in Dallas Thursday. Appropriate to their diametrically opposed positions on changes to the cap system the owners have proposed, each side blamed the other for the breakdown in talks.
After three seemingly productive meetings among only the highest-level negotiators in recent weeks, Hunter said the players insisted that the full bargaining teams be brought in Tuesday to see if compromise could be achieved before each side holds a significant meeting Thursday, when the players will convene in Las Vegas. The players were "prepared to compromise somewhat" on their share of revenues, which they'd previously proposed reducing from 57 percent to 54.3 percent.
"The owners are not inclined at this stage to move off the position where they've anchored themselves," Hunter said, adding that players remain steadfast against accepting a system that distributes the money to players via a hard cap.
Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver told a diferent story, saying the players signaled their willingness to compromise on dollars only if the owners agreed in advance that the system -- with a soft cap, luxury tax, and various spending exceptions -- would remain largely intact. The owners huddled -- for about three of the 5 1-2 hour, Hunter said -- and emerged to reject the players' request. Neither side actually made a formal proposal Tuesday.
Stern called the players' opposition to a hard cap "an emotional attachment," while Hunter argued that it would depress player salaries -- a point that Silver vehemently disputed.