Published October 17, 2011
(Reuters) - National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner David Stern has set his sights on the regular season starting within 30 days as team owners and players prepare to resolve their labor dispute through mediation.
The NBA has already canceled its pre-season and the first two weeks of the regular season because of the protracted lockout and the two sides are scheduled to meet with federal mediator George Cohen on Tuesday.
"We would push as hard as possible to be up and running in 30 days," Stern told CNN on Monday about his hopes for this week's negotiations.
Asked what would happen if no deal was reached, he replied: "We keep negotiating and we keep losing games in the calendar."
Stern had already identified Tuesday as a potential make-or-break day.
"If there's a breakthrough, it's going to come on Tuesday," Stern said in an interview with NBA TV. "And if not, I think that the season is really going to potentially escape from us, because we aren't making any progress."
The league locked out players on July 1 after the two sides failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The players last met with NBA officials a week ago in a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement.
When no deal was forthcoming, Stern canceled the first two weeks of the season, which was scheduled to begin November 1.
"We need to re-set our business model which not only gives our teams an opportunity to be profitable -- not mandated but an opportunity -- and allows them to revenue share," Stern said.
"As the union has made clear, and I agree with them, we need a more robust revenue sharing plan."
NBA owners contend the league lost $300 million last season with 22 of 30 teams in the red. They had wanted the league's share of basketball-related income increased from 50 to 57 percent, along with a firm salary cap and shorter contracts.
The players had offered to reduce their share from 57 to 53 percent.
"We had a 57 percent deal. That's over," Stern said. "And with that deal, we lost over a billion dollars and almost $300 million this past season. We're at 53 and they're at 47 and even at 50-50 it would be a very thin deal for the NBA.
"We need a system that allows our teams to better compete, we need a system that allows small market and large market teams to tell their fans: 'We can compete if we're well managed'."
(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Ian Ransom)