NBA Has ‘Open and Robust’ Negotiations With Union, Commissioner Stern Says

The National Basketball Association and its players’ union will reconvene at a Dallas hotel for a second day of meetings about a new labor contract, three weeks before the existing agreement expires.

“I won’t call it heated, but it was good and frank, open and robust,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said about the first day of talks yesterday. “That’s a good thing.”

Stern and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver took part in about five hours of discussions between almost all of the NBA’s 11-owner labor relations committee and the nine-player executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association.

Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBPA, left yesterday’s session without talking to reporters and union spokesman Dan Wasserman declined to comment. NBPA executive committee members Roger Mason Jr. and Keyon Dooling said the union would comment after today’s talks.

It’s the second time discussions have taken place during the NBA Finals, which is tied at two games apiece after the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat 86-83 last night. The union and league met for four hours in Miami on June 1, after which Hunter said he was hopeful an agreement can be reached before the existing deal ends on June 30.

The sides are arguing over how to divide more than $4 billion in league revenue.

Salary Cap

The league wants to limit team payrolls to $45 million a year, which Hunter said players vehemently oppose.

In addition, owners want at least partially non-guaranteed contracts, because the league expects to lose $300 million this season, Stern said in April. Twenty-two of the 30 franchises are expected to lose money, Silver said. The number of money-losing teams is fewer, the NBPA has said.

Yesterday’s talks covered the salary cap and contracts as well as the split of revenue between owners and players.

“There was nothing that we said, ‘OK, we have an agreement on this and let’s put it on the side,” Stern said. “There was a far-ranging discussion.”

The current labor contract allows teams to spend beyond the salary cap in certain situations. A so-called hard cap is used in the National Football League and National Hockey League.

The NFL locked its players out in March, leaving the sides in a legal battle that the NBA and its union are trying to avoid, Stern said.

“I just take it as a real positive that we’re continuing to meet,” Stern said. “It’s just easy if you don’t think that there’s a possibility of a breakthrough to just pack it in and say, ‘Let’s go home.’ But nobody on either side wanted to go home.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in Dallas at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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