NBA talks moving to critical stage

NBA commissioner David Stern didn't tip his hand if regular season games would start being canceled before this weekend as the league's labor strife wears on, but he did describe the progress of the talks with the union.

"We're not near a deal," Stern said.

ESPN reported that sources close to the talks have said that Stern is 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.

"There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend," Stern said. "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."

The sides met Tuesday for about two hours and then again on Wednesday for nearly four hours, but will break for the Jewish new year before meeting again on Friday afternoon and possibly through the weekend.

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

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the league's labor relations committee, comprised of 11 individuals, has been acting as the representative as the entire board of governors in the talks.

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

Neither side would describe the progress of specific issues at stake, but the owners insisting on a hard salary cap is reportedly the big sticking point.

"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 the 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."

Fisher said the two sides agreed to bring in larger groups over the weekend. That includes the league possibly bringing in as many as 15 owners.

"The idea is to bring in the principal parties that are going to make the decision whether or not this thing moves forward or not," Fisher said. "We just haven't been able to get to a space where at least the formal proposals that have been on the table get us to a place where we can agree on a deal at this point," Fisher said. "Economically, we've tried to leave that one floating and deal with some system issues and see what we can carve out there. We're really working at it from every angle."

Last Friday, the league announced its decision to postpone training camps and cancel 43 preseason games. Camps were slated to open October 3 and preseason games were scheduled to begin six days later. All exhibition games from October 9 through October 15 have been canceled.

The regular season is set to open November 1, provided there is a new collective bargaining agreement.

The NBA locked out its players on July 1 after the most recent labor deal between the two sides expired. Unlike the labor strife that caused NFL lockout, which long appeared to be solvable, the problems facing the NBA have led observers to warn about a prolonged dispute like the one that canceled the 2004-05 NHL season.