A 'Stern' poker face

If life were like professional wrestling, we would all have our own theme music when entering a room.

Known as a shrewd and sometimes ruthless negotiator, I've often thought David Stern should have anted up the royalties for "Bodies," the lead single from Drowning Pool's debut album back in 2001, known for its repetitive chorus of "Let the bodies hit the floor."

However, after Thursday's negotiating session between the owners and players, Lady Gaga is the one probably getting the call for "Poker Face."

Numerous sources have reported that Stern and Company are planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if no major progress is made in talks by the end of the coming weekend.

The commish never admitted that publicly but did describe the progress of the talks in ominous tones.

"We're not near a deal," Stern said. "There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend. Either we'll make very good progress -- we know how good that would be -- or we won't make any progress. Then it won't be a question of just starting the season on time. There will be a lot at risk."

Just what is the risk he is talking about?

The owner's have been steadfast, saying any deal they have offered will get worse as soon as Game 1 is canceled, leaving a stark reality for players with little real leverage -- fold or push all of their remaining chips to the middle of the table.

The two sides met Tuesday for about two hours and then again on Wednesday for nearly four hours. They are breaking Thursday for the Jewish new year before getting back to work on Friday afternoon and possibly through the weekend if things progress.

"We realize the calendar, watch, clock, whatever, is running out in terms of starting the regular season on time," union president Derek Fisher said.

Neither side would describe the progress of specific issues at stake after Wednesday's meeting, but the owners insisting on a hard salary cap remains the biggest fly in the ointment.

"If we can't find a way to get some common ground, really, really soon then the time of starting the regular season at the scheduled date is in jeopardy big time," Fisher said. "We still have a great deal of issues to work through so there won't be any magic that will happen this weekend and make those things go away. There is an effort to put together something that is fair for us and also fair for the game. That's the challenge. There is not necessarily a win-lose scenario to get our season started on time."

Not according to Stern.

"Let's get the two committees in and see whether we can have a season or not have a season. That's what's at risk this weekend."

Sensing things are heating up the NBPA asked superstars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant to be at the meetings on Friday in an effort to show a strong, unified front. But this isn't about winning or losing for the players now, it's about saving face.

Stern has decreed it's time to play Monty Hall and make a deal. He's just too smart to let a $4 billion dollar pot shrink while others hem and haw.

The league is bringing in as many as 15 owners for Friday's meeting and Stern will attempt to float a life raft to union chief Billy Hunter. That's the shrewd part of Stern's technique, an inconsequential "take back" that the union chief can bring back to his players and say "we won."

It might be a 51-49 revenue split in favor of the players, it might be a revived midlevel exemption or it might be holding the super agents looking to overthrow Hunter at bay.

The regular season is set to open Nov. 1 when the world champion Dallas Mavericks host the Chicago Bulls. Expect Stern to be there, entering American Airlines Center with Lady Gaga belting it out in the background.