After making progress during Wednesday's negotiating session, the NBA owners and players' union met for 7½ hours Thursday in New York. Continuing the post-meeting theme of optimism, both sides said the hope is to reach a new collective bargaining agreement sooner rather than later.
How about a handshake deal on Friday, when the two sides will meet at 9:30 a.m. Chicago time? Sounds good to me, too.
"We're discussing a lot of different things," commissioner David Stern told reporters. "There's an element of continuity, familiary, and, I would hope, trust that will enable us to look forward to tomorrow, where we anticipate there will be some important and additional progress -- or not."
"There are no guarantees that we'll get it done, but we're going to give it one heck of a shot."
According to league and union officials, the past two meetings centered around system issues like the luxury tax. Now, the focus will shift to the split of basketball-related income, as union economist Kevin Murphy -- who was not present Thursday -- will return to negotiations on Friday.
“The BRI split is the very first thing we are going to try to tackle in the morning," union executive director Billy Hunter told Sheridan Hoops' Chris Sheridan.
Said Stern: "We've spent a lot of time on the system ... the last two days. And I expect that tomorrow we'll be in a position to see whether we've made adequete progress or not to be able to turn to the [BRI] split."
Following Wednesday's meeting, which ended Thursday around 2:20 a.m. Chicago time, both sides hinted that a full, 82-game regular season could be salvaged if an agreement is reached by early next week. With the remainder of the November contests in jeopardy, the 2011-12 season would likely begin Dec. 1. Similar to the previous lockout in 1998-99 -- when teams played 50 of 82 games -- there would be an increased number of back-to-back games, and even "back-to-back-to-backs," as Hunter reminded after Wednesday's 15-hour meeting.
"Whether that gets to be 82 games or not is dependent upon so many things that have to be checked,'' Stern said. "We just think we've got to do it soon.''
As much as Bulls fans would love to watch Derrick Rose play in a condensed, 82-game schedule, constantly playing, practicing and preparing your body for the next day is not an easy task for NBA players and could be a recipe for disaster. Former NBA MVP and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley told NBATV that playing three games in three nights is "very difficult on the body."
Still, the owners and players have some work to do before they begin discussing a new schedule. Hunter said both sides are "within reach and within striking distance of getting a deal." But remember, earlier this month he claimed the two sides were "on the two-yard line."
The guess here is that there's a new collective bargaining agreement in place for a Dec. 1 start to the season. That scenario would mean a deal has to be in place by Nov. 1 because it will take three weeks to ratify the agreement and prepare for the upcoming campaign. Maybe the two sides don't come to terms Friday or Saturday, but a handshake deal by Sunday seems probable if talks continue to go smoothly. Although negotiations have fallen apart in the past, the vibe appears to be different this time around. Stern and Hunter even found things to smile about -- together, in unison.
"We're looking forward to seeing whether something good can be made to happen [on Friday]," Stern said.
When asked if it would be a failure to see both sides unable to reach a labor agreement within the next few days, Stern stated: "Yes."
As the great Mark Jackson once preached, the lights are on and it's your time to dance, owners and players.