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Friday, July 1, 2011

No sign of break in stalemate between NBA, players


NEW YORK — The NBA is headed to deadline day, with perhaps one last chance to avoid a lockout.

News photo
Just watch me: Thunder star Kevin Durant prepares to demonstrate some moves at his annual basketball camp in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. AP PHOTO

Negotiators for owners and players will meet Thursday, about 12 hours before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and seemingly nowhere close to a deal.

The sides remain far apart on just about every major issue, from salaries to the salary cap, revenues to revenue sharing.

After meeting twice a week for most of the month, this is the only session scheduled this week. The two sides could continue bargaining past the deadline, but that probably requires owners to see evidence of the gap narrowing Thursday.

Otherwise, they could lock out the players for the first time since the 1998-99 season was reduced to 50 games, though NBA commissioner David Stern has refused to say what would happen if a deal is not done Thursday.

"We're not going to negotiate in the media," he said Tuesday after meeting with owners. "We haven't before, we're not going to do it now. We're looking forward to having our discussion with the players."

There may not be much to discuss. Players declined to offer a new economic proposal in the most recent meeting Friday, and they may still feel their previous offer to reduce their salaries by $500 million over five years is going far enough.

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the league didn't know if the players would make another proposal.

Both sides have moved, but not nearly far enough for the other.

Players still consider the owners' proposal for a "flex" cap, where each team would be targeted to spend $62 million, a hard cap because there is an eventual unspecified level that can't be exceeded. And though the league said total player compensation would never dip below $2 billion over the life of its proposed 10-year deal, that would amount to a pay cut for the players, who were paid more than $2.1 billion this season in salaries and benefits.

Owners have dropped their insistence that no contracts could be fully guaranteed, an issue the players strongly opposed.

"In this league, teams can easily just say, 'We don't want this guy on our team anymore.' I think the security of having that contract goes a long way because you're taking care of your family, you've got a lot of things you're doing and this is your way of living," All-Star Kevin Durant said.

"I think that's the biggest thing with us, having that security as a player, knowing coming in that you're guaranteed and you're straight. Hopefully we keep that."

Owners still want a reduction in the players' guarantee of 57 percent of basketball revenues. Players said their latest proposal would have taken them down to 54.3, but say the league's offer would have them down to around 40 percent.

The meeting Thursday will include just small groups from each side, after many players attended the last session. Without a deal, there will be no free agency starting Friday, and the summer league in Las Vegas has already been canceled.

Real games could be next to go. Stern has said the offers only get worse once a lockout has started, though there is still plenty of time even if nothing gets done Thursday.

More talks for Woodson


DETROIT — Former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson will interview for the Detroit Pistons' job for a second time.

A person with knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team isn't commenting on the coaching search, said Woodson is set to interview again Thursday. Detroit fired coach John Kuester on June 5.

Woodson was an assistant for Larry Brown when the Pistons won the 2004 NBA title — on a staff that also included Kuester.

Detroit faces a more uncertain offseason than most teams. New owner Tom Gores officially took over at the beginning of June. The Pistons went 30-52 last season amid feuding between coaches and players.

Tayshaun Prince is a free agent and may not return. Ben Wallace says he's leaning toward coming back, but he turns 37 in September and played only 54 games last season.

Wallace was asked earlier this month about the possibility of playing for Woodson.

"I think Mike would do a great job. I think he did a great job with Atlanta," Wallace said. "I think he took those guys as far as they were ready to go. I think he would be a great fit for us."

Woodson was Atlanta's coach from 2004-10. He went 206-286 in those six seasons and took the Hawks to the playoffs the last three years. Woodson was let go after Atlanta was swept in the second round by the Orlando Magic in 2010.

Boston Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Bill Laimbeer and Orlando assistant Patrick Ewing are other possible coaching candidates for Detroit.

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