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Friday, Nov. 11, 2011

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Waiting to get back to work: Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams takes a shot before participating in a scrimmage on Wednesday in New York. AP

NBA owners, union meet as Stern's deadline passes

AP

NEW YORK — As commissioner David Stern's deadline passed, the NBA and its players continued negotiating Wednesday in an attempt to end the lockout.

The two sides met for more than nine hours to try to hash out a deal to save the season.

Stern had issued an ultimatum to players: Accept the league's latest proposal by 5 p.m. EST in the U.S. Wednesday or it will be replaced with a much harsher one that would drive the sides even farther apart.

Players said Tuesday they wouldn't accept the current one as configured and suggested another negotiation session.

The current offer calls for players to receive between 49 percent and 51 percent of basketball-related income, though union officials said it would be impossible to get above 50.2 percent. Players were guaranteed 57 percent of BRI under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

The next proposal would call for a 53-47 revenue split in the owners' favor, essentially a hard salary cap and salary rollbacks, which the league originally sought but had taken off the table. Both proposals were sent to union executive director Billy Hunter on Sunday.

The meeting featuring small groups from both sides was arranged Wednesday morning.

Failure to make a deal likely would increase the calls for the union to decertify so the players can file a lawsuit against the league in court, a risky and lengthy tactic that likely would doom the 2011-12 season. Union officials have downplayed the idea, but players might have no other leverage once the more severe proposal is put into play.

Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver were joined Wednesday by Spurs owner Peter Holt, the chairman of the labor relations committee, and lawyers Rick Buchanan and Dan Rube. Besides Hunter and president Derek Fisher, vice presidents Roger Mason Jr. and Maurice Evans, economist Kevin Murphy and attorney Jeffrey Kessler represented the union.

Kessler took part just hours after saying he regretted telling the Washington Post that owners are treating players like "plantation workers" during the ongoing lockout.

Besides the revenue split, the sides still are divided on elements of the salary cap system, mostly relating to the spending rules for teams that are over the luxury tax level. Players want those teams to remain options for free agents, whereas the league thinks talent would be more evenly distributed throughout the league if payrolls were more balanced.

Players indicated after their meeting Tuesday that they would be open to reducing their BRI take if owners made some changes on the system issues. Players offered to go to about 51 percent Saturday, with 1 percent going into a fund for retired player benefits.

But the league has placed as much importance on the system as the split, making it difficult to find compromise on the handful of items that remain unsettled.

A month of games already has been canceled. Hunter said Tuesday he had heard Stern also planned to cancel games through Christmas without a deal Wednesday, though Stern late told NBA TV that "we have made no such plans, and we have had no such discussions."

Navy angles for publicity

AP

Coronado, California — The fighter jets are gone from the flight deck, and in their place is a gleaming basketball court surrounded by bright green bleachers — a stark contrast to the gray, 95,000-ton Navy warship that buried Osama bin Laden at sea.

Friday's historic North Carolina-Michigan State basketball game aboard the USS Carl Vinson couldn't have come at a more opportune time for a Navy facing deep defense cuts.

Officials plan to seize the spotlight to showcase the Navy and its awe-inspiring, multi-billion-dollar aircraft carriers.

The country's basketball-fan-in-chief, President Barack Obama, will be onboard.

With the war in Iraq officially over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, the military is almost certain to shrink. All branches of service are feeling pressure.

Navy officials say they know a basketball game will not change the budget debate, but it can't hurt efforts to get the American public excited about their branch of service as its chiefs lobby Congress.



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