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A lot on the table as NBA talks resume Friday

Commissioner says there are 'enormous consequences' in labor negotiations, but he says a deal is not close.

September 28, 2011|By Lance Pugmire
  • Lakers point guard and NBA players' union president Derek Fisher says the players and owners are struggling to find common ground in labor negotiations.
Lakers point guard and NBA players' union president Derek Fisher… (Bebeto Matthews / Associated…)

NBA Commissioner David Stern said there are "enormous consequences" to labor negotiations with players that will resume Friday with several owners present and a contingent of stars, including Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.

"We're not near a deal," Stern told reporters Wednesday in New York. "Either we'll make very good progress … or we won't make any progress and then it won't be a question of just starting the season on time. There will be a lot of risk from the absence of progress."

Lakers guard and union President Derek Fisher said starkly, "If we can't find a way to get some common ground really, really soon, then the time of starting the regular season at its scheduled date is going to be in jeopardy big-time."

The NBA has already scrapped the start of training camps, plus 43 exhibition games through Oct. 15. The regular season is scheduled to start Nov. 1.

The NBA says 23 of its 30 teams are losing money, with $300 million in total losses last season.

Owners are pushing for a hard salary cap that would reduce salaries and promote competition. The players concede salary cuts are necessary but want to continue to earn a percentage above 50% of all basketball-related income in coming years should the economy rebound and profits accelerate.

Basketball officials contacted by The Times on Wednesday said a key issue in negotiations is the push by owners to cut the pay of role players who earn $5 million to $9 million annually but don't sell tickets like a superstar.

Defending the pay of the NBA's equivalent of "middle- and upper-middle-class" players is an uphill battle for union leader Billy Hunter and Fisher in negotiations with the league, the officials said.

Other reports say both sides are debating a proposed new luxury tax that would more deeply penalize teams that exceed a salary cap, and how to allow teams to retain their own free agents in excess of a cap.

Labor talks could last through the weekend, said Adam Silver, the NBA's deputy commissioner. He said 11 owners on the league's labor relations committee will be present for Friday's session.

Lakers star Kobe Bryant was in Italy on Wednesday considering an offer to play overseas during the lockout and is not expected to attend Friday's labor session.

"I'm focused on, 'Let's get the two committees here and see whether they can have a season or not have a season,' " Stern said. "That's what's at risk this weekend."

Pugmire reported from Los Angeles.

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