NEW YORK – After meeting with player representatives of 29 of the NBA's 30 teams, Players Association officials reiterated their refusal to accept the league's latest labor proposal with the hope the sides can resume negotiations ahead of the owners' Wednesday evening deadline.
NBA commissioner David Stern has given the players until 5 p.m. ET Wednesday to accept the owners' current offer, threatening to "reset" the proposal to a worse offer.
A union attorney spoke with NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver on Monday about arranging another negotiating session before the deadline, but union executive director Billy Hunter preferred to wait until meeting with the player representatives, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Hunter said he anticipates the two sides will meet Wednesday.
In an interview with NBA TV, Stern said he will take Hunter's call, but will let the owners' labor committee guide him as to whether to set up a meeting. Asked if there was still some wiggle room left in the owners' offer, Stern said: "As of Sunday at 3 a.m., there was none left."
Nevertheless, there is some belief the owners are willing to at least consider some minor modifications.
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As one ownership source told Yahoo! Sports on Monday night, “If there were a couple of tweaks needed around the edges – not fundamental deal points – I believe there could be a deal if everything else is agreed upon. But there needs to be a meeting with David and Billy for anything to happen.”
Fisher and Hunter indicated the union is willing to compromise on the proposed revenue split between the owners and players if the owners drop their demands for some specific system changes.
"Without those improvements in the system we don't see a way to get a deal done between now and the end of business [Wednesday] evening," Fisher said.
The union wants teams that cross the luxury tax threshold to still be allowed to use sign-and-trades and the regular midlevel exception to acquire players. Union officials also want the financial penalty for repeat tax offenders decreased and changes in the owners' proposed escrow system.
"There are things in the system … that we have to have, in order to be able to get this season going again," Fisher said.
The Players Association offered to drop its revenue split to 51 percent on Saturday. Hunter surprised some in Saturday’s mediation session when he suggested the players might be willing to drop to a 50-50 split, even when they had just stated their position as 51, sources in the room told Y! Sports.
One of the union’s lawyers quickly corrected Hunter, saying he meant to say a 51-49 split, but officials on both sides believed Hunter meant what he said: 50-50. All along, the belief has been the players would eventually accept the 50-50 split if they could get satisfactory resolutions on the system issues that would protect middle-class salaries and not stifle player movement, especially to the big-spending, big-market teams who are typically over the salary cap.
And after Tuesday's meeting, the union indicated it's willing to take a 50-50 split if the owners modify some of their system requests.
Hunter said he's heard from "underground" sources the NBA might can cancel games through Christmas if a deal isn't reached Wednesday, but Stern disputed that claim.
"I don't know under what ground he's looking," Stern said on NBA TV. "We've made no such plans. We need 30 days to start the season from the time we make the agreement."
The rhetoric between the two sides also escalated after the union's lead negotiator, Jeffrey Kessler, accused the league's owners of treating the players like "plantation workers" in an interview with The Washington Post. Stern responded by calling Kessler "the single most divisive force in our negotiations."
"Kessler's conduct," Stern told The Post, "is routinely despicable."
Of the league's 30 teams, only the Boston Celtics weren't represented at Tuesday's union meeting. A total of 43 players attended, and they emerged from the session declaring that the owners' proposal wasn't worth accepting – or even voting on.
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