NEW YORK — Michael Jordan was present Thursday when NBA labor talks resumed. Whether his magic touch can save the season remains to be seen.
His presence was promising, however, since his agent said he wouldn't get involved again until discussions got serious.
"His understanding was that a new proposal was going to be made" by the owners, agent David Falk said, "and he wanted to be there to listen to it. You can read into it that he's continuing to be involved and supportive of the union leadership."
The sides were still meeting into the night, but no formal proposals were being put forward.
Jordan left early in the evening, and it was unclear if he would return. He did not comment as he entered a hotel across from NBA headquarters, where the league and union were working to end the five-month dispute that threatens to wipe out the season.
The sides spent the first two hours merely "feeling each other out," Commissioner David Stern said, then went back to work after a lunch break. The bargaining session was the first in 13 days with both full negotiating committees in attendance.
If the owners and players can't come up with a solution in the next few weeks, the 1998-99 season likely will be canceled.
Jordan's arrival marked the first time he had joined the talks since an 8 1/2-hour session on Oct. 28.
The sides met one other time since then, on Nov. 20, and called it their most productive session to date. But things quickly unraveled.
The first order of major business was to decide whether to continue negotiating under the framework that the sides had discussed in two previous sessions--a six- or seven-year agreement with a complicated "escrow tax" system in the final three or four years.
The proposals made Nov. 20 would include players having 10% or 15% of their paychecks withheld if spending on overall player salaries exceeded a targeted percentage of revenues.
The owners have asked for a 50-50 split of revenue, while the players have tied many of their concessions to receiving 60%.
The owners moved to 53% on Nov. 20 and the players dropped to 57%, but those concessions became void under the ground rules that have been set for the new talks. That is, everything discussed at the Nov. 20 meeting is disregarded.