Basketball: NBA talks to resume

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The Independent Online
AFTER 11 days of silence, the opposing sides in the National Basketball Association lock-out finally met on Tuesday night and agreed to resume formal bargaining talks later this week.

David Stern, the commissioner, the deputy commissioner, Russ Granik, and Steve Mills, the NBA's vice president for basketball development, met for two hours on Day 140 of the lockout with the union director, Billy Hunter, the union president, Patrick Ewing, and Herb, Williams of the Knicks.

"It was, as usual, cordial but unproductive," Granik said. "We didn't get anywhere."

Despite that the two sides agreed to the larger session tomorrow. It will be the first session involving the full owners' and players' negotiating committees since 28 October.

"We sense that with the holidays approaching, if we don't start making progress soon the season is in jeopardy," Granik said. "We'll give it one more try on Friday."

The first six weeks of the season already have been scrapped, and with each passing day the likelihood increases of the season not beginning until January.

There had been an expectation around the league that a deal would be reached in time for NBC to televise its first games of the season - the Christmas doubleheader of Chicago v New York and the LA Lakers v Phoenix.

"My guess isn't better than anybody else's, but I hope we're showing games," Ed Markey, an NBC spokesman, said. "If there are no NBA games, we might revert back to showing regular Friday night programming."

David Falk, an agent who represents Michael Jordan, said the player, who attended the meeting last month, will not be the individual to jump- start the bargaining.

"What this thing is all about is the process of negotiation," Falk said. "Both sides are trying to be fair, but both have different understandings of what fair is."

The owners and players are stuck on the main economic argument of what constitutes a fair split of revenue.

Players, who received 57 per cent last season, are offering no concessions to slow salary growth unless the percentage rises to 60 per cent.

Owners, who had the right to reopen the last labour agreement if the percentage rose above 51.8 per cent, want the players to accept 50 per cent.

The owners have offered increased minimum salaries for veterans and have agreed in principle to the union's request for an annual salary cap exception equal to the average salary -which was $2.6m (pounds 1.6m) last season - but have demanded other mechanisms that would limit salaries the highest-paid players could receive.