HOUSTON – The NBA's deputy commissioner says that a lockout is "not inevitable," even though no formal meetings are scheduled between the owners and players' union.
Adam Silver, attending Friday night's game between New Orleans and Houston, said the two sides have plenty of time to work out a deal before the current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30.
"It's not inevitable," Silver said. "While we have no other formal meetings scheduled now, there is an ongoing dialogue with the union and we've been completely forthcoming with our financials. And I'd like to believe they understand the position in which we find ourselves and that no rock will go unturned in trying to get a new deal done."
The players rejected the league's last formal proposal over All-Star weekend last February, then presented a counterproposal last summer. The union offered to negotiate a reduction in the players' guarantee of 57 percent of basketball revenues, but also to loosen salary-cap restrictions on trades and add a second midlevel exception.
Commissioner David Stern has said the union's proposal was too similar to the current CBA. Silver said the league has offered no new proposal because, "Our position hasn't changed."
Stern has said the league wants to cut salary costs by $700 million to $800 million annually, a reduction of almost 40 percent. He has estimated the league will lose about $370 million this season, a figure the union disputes.
"From the league standpoint," Silver said, "we believe we made a compelling case to our players on why there needs to be reduction in salaries. I understand from the players' standpoint and the union's standpoint, what their position is."
The NBA is trying to avert its first work stoppage since the 1998-99 season. That lockout ran into late January and the regular season was shortened to 50 games.
Silver said Stern is confident that a deal can be struck this time before any games are lost.
"I would say just if you look at the history, we've only lost regular-season games once in the 60-plus year history of this league," Silver said. "The fact that we don't have a deal yet, or there's no progress to report this far out, to me is not an indication that we'll necessarily have a lockout. There is plenty of time to get a deal done.
"We will continue to talk and we will work around the clock if necessary to avoid losing games," Silver said. "That is one thing there is absolute agreement on, between the ownership and the union, that makes absolutely no sense given the economic situation this country finds itself in and given the economics of this league — to lose games."
The All-Star weekend is scheduled for Feb. 18-20 in Los Angeles. While Stern, players association head Billy Hunter and many of the owners and players are expected to attend, Silver doesn't think the environment would be conducive to "serious" negotiations.
"That's never been a circled date on the calender for us, in terms of measured progress," Silver said. "In fact, All-Star weekend is so packed with activity, for David Stern, for Billy Hunter and his players, there isn't even a lot of time to meet.
"To the extent that we do have a meeting at All-Star weekend — and one has not been scheduled yet — it would be largely symbolic because it's unlikely that serious negotiating would take place in that setting."
But Silver said if the union pushed to meet over All-Star weekend, the league and its owners would be receptive.
"It may make sense, because we're all there together," Silver said. "From that standpoint, maybe it makes sense. But at least speaking for the owners' side, that's not a date where, from any standpoint, it's critical in terms of getting a deal done."