Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

Players and owners within "striking distance" of new labor deal and 82-game season

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves news Updated: October 28, 2011 - 2:32 AM

Could today be the day?

Could it be the day this NBA labor saga finally ends and the owners and players shake hands and say they have reached a deal that will save an 82-game season even though the season very well might not begin until Thanksgiving or Dec. 1?

If not, then maybe by the end of the weekend?

“I think we’re within reach, striking distance of getting a deal,” NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said. “It’s just a question of how receptive the NBA is and whether or not they want to do a deal.”

The two sides met for more than 22 hours on Wednesday and Thursday and will reconvene this morning at 9:30 Twin Cities time.

NBA commissioner David Stern said after talks went merely to 10 p.m. Thursday evening New York time that he can see the structure of a deal and said he’d consider it a failure if that deal isn’t reached if not today, then in the coming days.

“The fair answer and direct and honest answer is yes,” Stern said when asked if it’d be a failure if a deal isn’t reached.

“I can’t tell you we’ve resolved anything in a big way, but there’s an element of continuity, familiarity and, I would hope, trust that would enable us to look forward to tomorrow, where we anticipate there will be some important additional progress,” Stern said Thursday night. “Or not.”

They haven’t yet tackled the important BRI – Basketball Related Income, the split of the proverbial pie – yet and still, according to Yahoo!Sports, must still agree on the tricky issue of mid-level and bi-annual exceptions.

But the mood after Thursday’s session certainly seemed positive. Stern stood smiling in the back of the room as union representatives answered questions during a news question and loudly and playfully answered a question intended for Hunter from there.

“No guarantees we’re going to get it done,” Stern said in his own news conference. “But we’re going to give it one heckuva shot tomorrow.”

The owners have held firm to a 50-50 split of the revenue pie while the players previously have been willing to go from their 57 percent in the last labor deal to 53 percent but no further for the new one.

Asked if the owners are willing to make a move in that area today in order to get a deal done, Stern said, “We’re prepared to negotiate over everything. We’re looking forward to it.”

If a deal is reached soon, it’d take about a month to get ready to play regular-season games.

First, lawyers need a few to several days to draft the new agreement and have it signed by both sides. Then there will be a four or five day period to sign free agents, including any who are released by an amnesty clause that will allow pay off one player and take as much as 75 percent of his contract off their salary cap.

After that, there’d be probably two weeks for training camp and then likely a pair of home-and-home exhibition games (Milwaukee, I’m guessing) before the season starts sometime between Thanksgiving and  Dec. 1.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the league has informed arenas to hold open dates for late April. That suggests a full 82-game schedule still could be played by extended the regular season from mid to the end of April and squeeze an extra two to three games in every month to compensate for the season’s first lost month.

 

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