No new proposal from players at NBA labor meeting
NEW YORK - With their turn, the players passed.
NBA players declined to present a new economic proposal to owners Friday, less than a week before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.
Dressed in matching T-shirts urging solidarity, about 40 players attended the negotiating session, the final one before owners could vote on whether to lock them out if no deal is reached. But once there, they decided not to make any move to close the distance between the sides' financial positions.
"There's still such a large gap, we feel that any move for us is real dollars we'd be giving back from where we currently stand, as opposed to where our owners have proposed numbers that in our estimation don't exist right now," union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said. "They're asking us to go to a place where they want us to go, so we've expressed our reasons why we don't want to continue to move economically."
The sides aren't scheduled to meet again until Wednesday or Thursday, hours before the June 30 expiration date.
The owners could make their next move by then, voting to authorize a lockout when they meet Tuesday in Dallas. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA's lead negotiator, said it would be "premature to talk about where we're going to find ourselves next week."
Billy Hunter, the union's executive director, said there was enough good dialogue between owners and his expanded contingent of players that any lockout action may be unnecessary.
"I think that the nature of the discussion today was such that they may find it difficult to pull the trigger," Hunter said. "Even though we didn't make any progress, maybe they felt that the energy and the attitude in the room was such that it might necessitate further discussion."
The union's negotiating committee was joined by Boston's Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce - who both spoke in the meeting - Jason Terry of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, and a number of other players in town for player representative meetings. Hunter said he was told late Thursday night that the players had decided to attend Friday's session.
They arrived at a midtown hotel in gray T-shirts reading "STAND," which Hunter said was the players' message of "solidarity."
Commissioner David Stern said the shirts were "nicely done," adding it was "great to have so many players in the room."
"We were hoping that more players would come and we were actually cheered by the fact that they were there," Stern said.
But he was disappointed by what they didn't say.
Owners had hoped for another proposal from the union, but players felt they had gone far enough after they offered a $500 million reduction in salaries over five years on Tuesday, a move Stern termed "modest."
"Why did we not make one? Because we felt that the one that we made previously was sufficient," Hunter said.
Stern wouldn't comment on the absence of an offer, or much else from the meeting. After months of offering little specifics about the negotiations, both sides went on the record with details of their proposals this week and took shots at the other over their characterizations of them.
Stern said he felt it appropriate to reveal information about the league's salary cap proposal on Tuesday, but said the relative silence after Friday's session was because "rhetoric is not helpful if it's incendiary and we're not interested in incendiary rhetoric on either side."
They decided not to meet again until after the Board of Governors meeting in Dallas, where owners will be briefed on the state of collective bargaining negotiations and plans for expanded revenue sharing. The union speculated that the lockout authorization vote would take place, but Stern wouldn't comment.
"We're going down to the Tuesday meeting and what will be will be," Stern said. "The one thing we don't want is a lockout. We have told the players that."
They could impose one anyway if the talks back in New York go nowhere, and Stern indicated that could be done even without a vote beforehand.
"We can do whatever we need to do whenever we need to do it, however we need to it," he said. "It's not about the formality of a meeting, but for us the time best spent, the best time we're going to spend next week hopefully, is on the meetings with the players on Wednesday that with any luck goes over to Thursday, and that's where we are."
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