I will present a few things to you today with little commentary because I don’t want to jinx it by talking about. It’s almost like a no-hitter in baseball. Don’t make eye contact with them or acknowledge the fact that they may be close. Just shut up and stare straight forward.
The NBA and Players Association have moved to the cusp of ending the four-month old lockout, and there’s strong belief on both sides that a Friday bargaining session could culminate with the framework of an agreement to preserve most, if not all, of a full season.
“It’s moved to a very good place,” one source briefed on Thursday’s 7½-hour bargaining session told Yahoo! Sports. “There’s a strong expectation [within the negotiations] that hands will shake [Friday].”
Derek Fisher declared, “It gets tougher towards the end.”
Adam Silver said “we remain apart on both” systems and economic issues. “So from that standpoint,” he added, “we’re disappointed.”
But who will remember one more dose of gloom when, for the first time in a long time, it came with some sunshine.
David Stern and Billy Hunter started cracking smiles Thursday night.
Stern invaded Hunter’s news conference and literally yukked it up from the back row.
Hunter spied him there and called him out with a grin. Their back-and-forth included each proclaiming to the other, “Tomorrow!”
It’s the first time either side has been this jolly and the first time either side has declared a day as the day. Friday is the day, and no one’s afraid to say it.
Setting up the next and most pivotal day in the NBA labor talks, negotiators will convene Friday with what commissioner David Stern described as “resolve” to finally close the gap and agree to the two key elements of a new collective bargaining agreement: the system and the split of revenues.
“I can’t tell you we’ve resolved anything in such a big way, but there’s an element of continuity, familiarity and I would hope trust that would enable us to look forward to (Friday), where we anticipate there will be some important and additional progress or not,” Stern said in a news conference Thursday night after a 7 1-2 hour bargaining session at a luxury Manhattan hotel.
“We’re looking forward to seeing whether something good can be made to happen,” Stern said.
The goal all along had been to get David Stern and Billy Hunter in a room together, not just at the start of a day’s negotiations but at the end.
That’s where they were Thursday, lending legitimacy and hope to what seemed like some serious positioning on a deal that could come as soon as Friday.
Wait, no snarky “Or not” qualifier? Nope. If only for a night, the content and tone of the key negotiators’ comments to reporters after another seven-plus hours of collective bargaining talks deserved to stand on their own. As did the fact that, as Hunter and union president Derek Fisher spoke publicly first at the end of this session, Stern was seated in the back of the room. He was smiling, he was acknowledged a couple of times by Hunter and he even answered a question for the union chief, who had been asked when the difficult moves in this labor dance would get made.
“Tomorrow,” the commissioner said.
The sides have made progress on many salary cap system issues, but how punitive the new luxury tax will be remains a particularly sore sticking point. The 23 hours have been spent methodically plodding through several other system issues, and a middle ground still needs to be found on several of the particulars (i.e. maximum annual raises, which the union wants to keep at 10.5 percent for unrestricted free agents and 8 percent for others. The owners have been asking that those percentages be cut to 4.5 and 3, respectively, and it is unclear if they have moved off that position).
“We’ve spent a lot of time on the system the in the last two days, and I expect that tomorrow we’ll be in a position to see whether we made adequate progress on that to be able to turn to the split,” commissioner David Stern said. “I think that we are not close enough right now (on system issues), but I expect with a good night’s sleep we’ll both come in with resolve to get closer.”
Stern was asked straight up whether it would be a failure of the sides didn’t get a deal done in the next couple days.
As many have pointed out, we need to keep Dan Gilbert, Paul Allen and Kevin Garnett as far away New York as possible this weekend. Possibly restraining orders that are effective immediately?
Keep calm and carry on.