NEW YORK -- With rhetoric toned down and secrecy at a premium, top officials from the NBA and its players' union met Wednesday for more than five hours and emerged saying they've agreed on nothing except the next meeting.
After the second high-level bargaining session in as many weeks, the two sides will meet on consecutives days for the first time since the lockout was imposed July 1. Sticking to a mutual agreement not to charaterize the talks or divulge details, lead negotiators from both sides acknowledged that time was running out to get a deal that would avert a shortened or canceled season.
When asked if there was still time to achieve such a negotiating breakthrough, commissioner David Stern said, "Yes. We have three weeks."
With that, Stern dropped the first publicly acknowledged deadline for a deal to be reached without canceling at least a portion of training camps or preseason. Three weeks from Wednesday is Sept. 28, and training camps league-wide are scheduled to begin the first week of October.
Asked if there is still time to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement without missing regular season games, union chief Billy Hunter said, "I think there is. I think there clearly is. There's more than enough time."
In addition to the rosters of negotiators present at the most recent session on Aug. 31 -- Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt for the owners, and Hunter, president Derek Fisher and general counsel Ron Klempner for the players -- other members of the negotiating teams were in the room Wednesday. The players brought outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler and economist Kevin Murphy, while the league brought deputy general counsel Dan Rube. The presence of Rube, the leading expert on cap mechanics and player contracts at the league office, may have indicated a shift to more specific, system-related talks. But Stern tersely rejected the notion that Rube's presence was related to what topic areas were discussed.
The two sides will meet again Thursday, and possibly beyond, as the calendar continues its inexorable march toward the possible cancelation of preseason or even regular season games.
"We agreed that we're going to sit here for as many days as we can to see if we're going to be able to make progress," Stern said.