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NBA and Players Still Miles Apart as Thurs. CBA Deadline Approaches.

Byline: Sloane Martin

Tuesday represented the day (http://bizofbasketball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=836:no-sign-yet-that-the-tide-is-turning-in-nba-labor-negotiations&catid=34:nba-news&Itemid=54) to get a better idea about the current state of NBA labor negotiations.

And we may have gotten it. It's not too positive -- and there's a legitimate concern about whether the owners and players are too far apart to reach a decision within a week's time.

Nothing is imminent yet, but with the collective bargaining agreement expiring June 30, having a clearer picture of where both sides stand is important to foreseeing future progress.

According to Howard Beck of the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/sports/basketball/nba-and-players-union-remain-far-apart-in-labor-talks.html?_r=2&src=tptw) about reaction to Tuesday's meeting, "If the parties were 100 miles apart at the start of the day, how many miles are they apart now? 'Ninety-nine,' [executive director of the players union, Billy] Hunter said."

That progress, if one can call it that, relates to the two most-discussed and most-contentious topics affecting the labor negotiations: player salaries and salary cap system.

The owners, who have been insistent -- until recently -- about a hard cap system which would dramatically change the NBA's economic system, lessened this stance and proposed a "flex cap" system. ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan (http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/30583/labor-talks-are-they-really-closer-to-a-deal) explains that the flex cap would "target a median team payroll of $62 million and would include an unspecified maximum team salary that could not be exceeded under any circumstances (thereby eliminating the luxury tax and shrinking the pool of revenue sharing dollars, which commissioner David Stern pegged last fall at $54 million)."

The players who have been present in the negotiation sessions have not only been unified in their attire (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/sports/basketball/as-an-nba-lockout-looms-t-shirts-proclaim-players-solidarity.html), but also in their disapproval of the owners' "flex cap" proposal as just another title for the same hard cap system the owners have staunchly supported throughout. However, the $62 million cap is much more forgiving than the $45 million originally proposed by the owners.

The players have not presented a counter proposal since receiving the flex cap proposal from Tuesday.

Another issue which has yet to be resolved is player salaries and the distribution of basketball related income (BRI). The players receive 57 percent under the current agreement; but on Tuesday they presented a five-year labor agreement which would include $100 million less in total salaries each season, cutting their share of BRI to 54.3 percent in the first several seasons of the proposed five-year pact. Commissioner David Stern dismissed the $500 million reduction as "modest" because the league is looking to eliminate nearly $8 billion over the next 10 years and is seeking a 50/50 split.

At least one other meeting is expected (http://twitter.com/#%21/briancmahoney/status/84351283624017920) before June 30 on either Wednesday or Thursday.

"'We think we'll have one more shot at it,' said Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players union, adding that the parties would know then 'whether there's a chance to make a deal or whether there isn't,'" Beck writes (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/25/sports/basketball/as-an-nba-lockout-looms-t-shirts-proclaim-players-solidarity.html).

There are immense obstacles to overcome for both sides to reach a deal, especially considering the depth of different priorities combined with the league's pressure to obliterate the current system; but Hunter points out one positive development after Tuesday's meeting: "'I don't even want to talk lockout now,' Hunter said via the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/sports/basketball/nba-and-players-union-remain-far-apart-in-labor-talks.html?_r=2&src=tptw), 'because there appears to be some interest, more interest than previously demonstrated, on their part in wanting to get a deal. They made some movement today.'"

Despite the grim indications from Tuesday's labor meeting, effort and intentions are beneficial. But not good enough for an agreement.

Sloane Martin is the creator of the women's sports blog Same Size Balls (http://samesizeballs.wordpress.com/). She is a sports broadcaster and freelance writer. She can be followed on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#%21/SloaneMartin).

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Author:Martin, Sloane
Publication:The Biz of Basketball
Date:Jun 27, 2011
Words:831
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