NBA owners, players hold lengthy bargaining session

NBA owners and players ended negotiations Wednesday after more than eight hours.

NEW YORK — NBA owners and players ended negotiations Wednesday after more than eight hours.

Federal mediator George Cohen said the two sides would resume bargaining Thursday afternoon. Owners had to leave to attend board of governors meetings Wednesday evening through midday Thursday.

“The discussions have been direct and constructive, and as far as we are concerned, we are here to continue to help assist the parties to endeavour to reach an agreement,” Cohen said.

The two sides met for more than 24 hours in a 32-hour span. Without a deal this week, Commissioner David Stern might have to decide when a next round of cancellations would be necessary. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 have been scrapped, costing players about $170 million in salaries.

Cohen said players and owners met in a variety of settings during mediation, sometimes in subcommittees, other times in groups as large as 40 people. “Everyone is extremely focused on the core issues, the difficult issues that confront them,” he said.

Stern left after talks surpassed the seven-hour mark to attend an owners’ planning committee meeting at another hotel. Stern hoped to bring a deal to his owners during their two days of board meetings; otherwise, he warned more games might be cancelled. Already 100 games have been lost.

It was unclear whether the two sides were closing the divide between them on two main issues, the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system.

Players believe owners’ attempts to make the luxury tax more punitive and limit the use of spending exceptions will effectively create a hard salary cap, which they say they will refuse to accept. Also, each side has formally proposed receiving 53 per cent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 per cent under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

Talks originally weren’t planned Wednesday, the 111th day of the lockout, because owners had previously scheduled meetings. But the labour relations committee returned about 10 a.m. to resume negotiations with the players’ executive committee, just eight hours after the sides wrapped up a marathon 16-hour session with Cohen on Tuesday night.

Owners then postponed the planning committee meeting that was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Wednesday so they could keep talking with players. That meeting was to feature a presentation on the league’s plans for expanded revenue sharing among teams, which Stern said will be introduced after the collective bargaining agreement with the players has been completed.

Unable to make any real headway in recent weeks on the division of revenue and the cap structure, both sides welcomed the presence of Cohen, who also spent 16 days trying to resolve the NFL’s labour dispute in February and March.

Their first day together produced a bargaining session that was more than twice as long as any previous one since owners locked out players when the old collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.

Neither side commented on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s talks at Cohen’s request.