NBA owners, union to resume talks

NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, left, NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, left, and NBA commissioner David Stern. Photo Credit: AP, 2005

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The NBA and its players union will go back to the negotiating table Wednesday for yet another attempt to resolve their differences in collective bargaining and end the four-month lockout.

A person with knowledge of the situation told Newsday that the sides will get together in Manhattan to resume talks that broke down last Thursday after three days of mediation. It is not known if the NBA has dropped its precondition that the union agree to a 50-50 split of league revenue, which was what union executive director Billy Hunter said led to the owners abruptly ending what had been viewed as constructive talks presided over by federal mediator George Cohen.

The source said Cohen, who issued a terse statement of surrender after mediation failed last week, will not re-join the parties Wednesday. But commissioner David Stern, who missed last Thursday's talks because of the flu, is expected back at the table. A league official said Stern was home through the weekend, but returned to his office Monday.

The union pointed blame at hardline owners who pushed their agenda in Stern's absence. One union official said that Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the league's Labor Relations Committee, gave the players a "take it or leave it'' ultimatum for the 50-50 split. The players said they weren't willing to commit to anything but wanted to continue talks.

Both sides said they weren't that far off on the split, with the sides discussing a "band'' concept; the owners offered a 49-51 percent range and the union proposed 50-53 percent. In both cases, the low number represents the players' split if league revenues underperform and the high number represents the players' split if revenues overachieve. At the middle, the sides appear to be separated by two points. Close enough to keep talking.

After last Thursday's talks broke down, many were expecting the league to announce early this week further cancellations of the season. But the 2011-12 schedule that was created during the summer is essentially defunct at this point. The NBA on Oct. 10 canceled the first two weeks of the season, but to cancel further games would be irrelevant as a new schedule would need to be written, using most of the dates available, when (or if) an agreement is reached.

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