NEW YORK – After several days of NBA ultimatums and threats, owners and players made significant progress toward a collective bargaining agreement that would end the lockout, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
With the Players Association agreeable to a 50-50 split of revenue, the sides also made progress on three of the five system issues that union officials said needed to be resolved to complete a deal, sources said. The players are determined to keep system issues which allow them freedom to move to luxury-tax teams, among other issues involving the tax and escrow systems.
After more than 12 hours of negotiations Wednesday, the two sides resumed talks at noon ET Thursday.
"We can get there in the next day or two," one high-ranking league official briefed on the talks said. "But it's still a volatile process, and egos can still get in the way. …But there's a lot of reason to be hopeful."
NBA commissioner David Stern had vowed to "reset" the owners' proposal to a worse offer if a deal wasn't reached by 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, but the deadline passed early in the negotiating session without action.
"The clock is stopped," Stern said after the talks ended at 1 a.m. ET Thursday. "And we’re trying to see if there's a reason why we can get something to go back to our respective sides with."
Stern has some ability to negotiate through the deal points of the system issues, but he also has a group of owners largely split over how much they need to cede to the players on system issues. The owners have watched the union give back in unprecedented ways, and there's a significant faction that thinks Stern can get a deal done without yielding much more to the players.
If the talks break down in the next 24-48 hours, agents are prepared to move rapidly toward decertification of the union or a variation of it, disclaimer of interest.
After player team representatives strongly pushed union executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher at a Tuesday meeting about securing favorable agreements on the several system issues, the union's leadership will still likely have to sell the rank-and-file on a largely scaled-back model of the players' wish list if they want to get a deal done by the end of the week.
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So many of the system issues are linked, making it a high-wire act of give-and-take to get them ironed out.
Players Association and league officials arranged the negotiating session one day after the union's player team representatives reiterated they would reject the owners' latest offer. The player representatives who attended Tuesday's meeting in New York were largely taken aback by the details of the proposal the owners wanted them to accept, agents who debriefed the players later said.
"It was much worse than I think most of them were led to believe – whether they were misinformed or whatever the case – but the discussion some were going to have about possibly taking that final offer left the room fast," one agent said.
Stern was given the authority to make minor system alterations to the owners' offer, ownership sources told Yahoo! Sports. Nevertheless, several hardline owners would prefer the NBA to submit the threatened proposal that gives them a 53 percent share of the revenue, a hard salary cap and rollbacks on current NBA contracts.
As one ownership source said: “There’s not enough of [the hardline owners]. Most are not thrilled with the current deal but would take it. But as time goes on and more losses pile up, a majority will need more than the 50-50 deal.”
"We're going to meet again [Thursday] to give our best effort," Fisher said, "but we don't know if it will be enough."
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- Derek Fisher