NEW YORK - The NBA will listen to a new proposal from the players union Tuesday that they hope will meet their demands for a hard salary cap and decreases in player salaries. If not, the possibility of a lockout looms.
"We're hoping that we will receive from them a proposal directed to the economics," Commissioner David Stern said Friday.
The sides are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Manhattan for a session of collective bargaining that likely will be the last formal talks before the current CBA expires June 30.
Stern has said the NBA will lose more than $300 million again this season after claiming losses of $370 million in 2008-09 and $340 million in 2009-10. The league has turned over audited financial records to the union outlining the losses, which the union has acknowledged in recent meetings. Under the current agreement, player salaries take up 57 percent of the league's basketball-related income. Stern, however, has said that he wants to reduce player salaries by as much as $800 million and swing that money to the owners.
The league initially proposed a hard-cap system that dramatically would lower the cap (reportedly from $58 million to around $45 million) and the elimination of guaranteed contracts. The NBA has since agreed to soften its stance on guaranteed contracts, which was aimed to show a willingness to negotiate.
"It's tough to get into specifics about one part of the deal because they're all related," players' association president Derek Fisher said Friday. "We can't talk about one part because it impacts the entire system ... Without other things, it doesn't mean much."
Both sides stated the importance of Tuesday's meeting after talks ended Friday.
"It would be fair to say," Stern said, "that we are still far apart."
If a deal isn't completed by the end of the month, the league is expected to lock out its players starting July 1. Both sides have made it clear that is not the intended result -- Stern last month said a lockout "would be destructive to our business from the owners' perspective and the players' perspective" -- but multiple sources believe there is still a great deal of posturing going on.
"What strikes me is the fallacy that July 1 is that important," said one person with knowledge of the situation. "[The NBA has] gone past it without a deal ... in the past, so the notion that it's some kind of critical deadline seems artificial and phony."
The real deadline won't come until mid-September, when a work stoppage would threaten the start of the 2011-12 season. The NBA lost almost half a season in 1998-99 as a result of a lockout.
Fisher noted a "very clear sense of urgency" in Friday's meeting, but the mood was hardly optimistic, adding, "We're not sure between now and July 1 if we can make up the gulf that exists between the two sides."