A reason for optimism: NBA and union will meet again Thursday

Last week, NBA brass and union officials met to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement that would end the lockout and bring pro basketball back to our arenas and TV screens. No details came out of the meeting, but the fact that subsequent interviews in the press contained minimal posturing stood out as a good sign. Even with the sides far apart, it seemed like they were finally willing to sit down and work out a deal.

On Wednesday morning, the parties met again in New York. While it's still unclear if talks progressed in a substantive way, circumstantial evidence suggests that things are going well. In fact, they've even decided to meet again Thursday. Howard Beck of The New York Times reported from the scene on Twitter:

NBA and union have concluded bargaining meeting after 5 1/2 hours. Waiting for the parties to emerge.

Everyone still playing it close to the vest, but NBA and union officials will meet again tomorrow. Seems like a good sign. #Lockout

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com also tweeted a few quotes from NBA commissioner David Stern. Check them out after the jump.

David Stern echoed sentiment that there's enough time to save season. "Yes," he said. "We have three weeks."

But Stern refused to characterize content/tone of negotiations or his level of optimism: "We agreed with the players not to say anything."

Stern: "We agreed that we're going to sit here for as many days as we can to see if we're going to be able to make progress."

More Stern: "We know we have a real problem to solve and there's nothing personal about this."

Stern: "It's going to be about problem solving. If we can, we can. If we can't, we can't."

Stern was careful to avoid saying that a deal is getting hammered out, which seems likely given how far teams were apart just a few weeks ago. However, that doesn't mean there hasn't been progress over the past week. In that context, the decision not to mention anything in the media is a positive development in that it suggests no one wants to distort these negotiations during extended spin sessions. Even if the sides are still far apart, they're focused on making things better. That's clear from both their approach to the media and their decision to meet again on Thursday.

If forced to bet, I'd still say that the NBA will cancel some games this season. But the negotiation situation seems to have improved in the last two weeks. Measured optimism is the order of the day.

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