The NBA owners and players are expected to meet Wednesday in New York for just the second time since the lockout began – a meeting that could lead to more significant negotiating sessions or possibly the delay of the start of training camps.
"This is a telltale meeting,” said agent Billy Duffy, whose client roster includes Steve Nash(notes), Rajon Rondo(notes) and Greg Oden(notes). “I think we will know the seriousness of both sides’ position after Wednesday.
"I don’t think the season starts on time. There really has been no progress. The union has been patient on hoping there would be movement on the league side. The league hasn’t demonstrated any movement whatsoever while the union is flexible."
NBA commissioner David Stern is expected to attend the small meeting, along with Players Association executive director Billy Hunter. The sides remain far apart on numerous issues, and Stern has said a lack of progress by Labor Day could jeopardize the start of camps, which are scheduled to open in October. The sides haven't met since Aug. 1.
Most players won't begin losing paychecks until after the regular season starts in November, but a prolonged work stoppage won't be good for either side, Duffy said.
"The league is also grossly underestimating the negativity that comes with a stoppage," Duffy said. "There are some clubs that won’t miss a beat after a lockout. But there are other clubs that could lose their fans and sponsor base pretty easily with a lengthy lockout."
New Jersey Nets All-Star guard Deron Williams(notes), who has a contract to play in Turkey if the lockout extends into the fall, is the only star who has committed to go overseas. The Chinese Basketball Association has forbidden its teams from signing NBA players already under contract. Several players have said they are more likely to consider playing overseas in late October or in November if the labor impasse hasn't ended.
The cost of securing insurance to protect a player's NBA contract also has kept some players from signing with European teams.
“When you’re in the middle of a lucrative contract there is a lot of risk to protect the value of it,” said agent Mark Bartelstein, whose clients include Golden State Warriors forward David Lee(notes) and Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger(notes). “It’s very expensive to get insurance. If a team is going to pay for it, they are going to take the money out of your contract. There has to be a major sponsor, a shoe company to make it work. Teams alone can’t handle it.”
Philadelphia 76ers forward Elton Brand(notes) has recently been working out with about 10 of his teammates in Los Angeles just in case the lockout ends soon. Sixers forward Andre Iguodala(notes) postponed a trip to Paris to join his teammates.
"There is a cause for optimism," Brand said of Wednesday's meeting, "but we are really far apart."
Both sides would like to see some progress come from the meeting.
“I’m hoping that the NBA is coming with every intention to make a deal,” Bartelstein said. “At this point, it’s been a lot of, 'take it or leave it.' I’m hoping there is a real sense of urgency."
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- Billy Duffy