Players set to debate latest offer

David Stern's latest artificial line in game schedule on December 15.

Of course, last weekend the commish said that a proposal to the players that included a split of basketball-related income between 49 and 51 percent, depending on revenue projections from the league, would be on the table until the end of business on Wednesday.

That deal also came packaged with a threat. Stern promised that the next proposal from the owners would be far worse, a disaster for the players that would include 47 percent of BRI with a flex salary cap.

Union head Billy Hunter didn't blink on Tuesday intimating that the current stalemate is "about the system, not the BRI split," which seems to be assured at something very close to 50-50. Hunter also seemed to be poking the bear a bit and not taking Stern's warnings very seriously, believing a 50-50 split of BRI would linger far past Wednesday afternoon.

Calling a bluff has worked before for the players. Remember Wednesday's deadline was the third time that Stern went on the record to promise that the NBA's "next offer" would be worse. He first spun that rhetoric back on October 4 and again on October 28, yet the league actually improved its offer after both of those proposed deadlines.

This time, Stern and the league presented the NBPA with yet another new offer Thursday after nearly 23 hours of talks over two days. Attached to it was another new caveat -- the answer should come early next week, no more negotiating.

The players, who haven't been all that savvy during the lockout, essentially turned Wednesday's ultimatum 180 degrees back to the owners by giving a clear indication that they would agree on the BRI -- a giveback that would transfer about $330 million a year to the owners, a number that would cover all the league's claimed losses.

However, the NBPA asked for a number of concessions to the system in return and union president Derek Fisher has already said the revised proposal does not meet all the necessary system issues that the players have a problem with.

"It does not meet us entirely on the system issues that we felt were extremely important to try and close this thing out, and so at this point we've decided to end things for now, take a step back," Fisher said. "We'll go back as an executive committee, as a board, confer with our player reps and additional players over the next few days."

The NBPA hopes to get the various player representatives to New York for a meeting on Monday or Tuesday to discuss whether the latest proposal is good enough to vote upon.

"It's not the greatest proposal in the world, but I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership and so that's what we are going to do," Hunter said.

Whether the latest deal is acceptable or not -- Stern made it clear that the players should not ask to meet again about this proposal.

"There comes a time when you have to be through negotiating, and we are," the commissioner said.

A much-talked about rollback of the current offer, one that is said to be a 47-percent BRI for the players and a flex salary cap will be waiting if the players balk.

In an effort to push compromise Stern indicated that he didn't expect the players to like the entire proposal but countered by saying many of the owners also are against certain aspects of the offer.

A 72-game schedule, despite beginning six weeks after the original November 1 tip off would require moving the playoffs and NBA finals back roughly a week, according to NBA.