NEW YORK (AP) – Searching for progress to end the NBA lockout, owners and players held another lengthy bargaining session Wednesday despite the departure of Commissioner David Stern.
Stern left after talks surpassed the seven-hour mark to attend an owners’ planning committee meeting at another hotel. It was unknown whether he planned to return.
He left with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, the planning committee chairman, and NBA president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, the league’s lead negotiator, and Spurs owner Peter Holt, who heads the labor relations committee, remained to lead the talks with players.
Stern hoped to bring a deal to his owners during their two days of board meetings, otherwise he warned more games might be canceled. Already the first two weeks of the season – exactly 100 games – have been lost.
The sides appeared to be trying. They have met for more than 24 hours in a 32-hour span with federal mediator George Cohen.
Without a deal this week, Stern might have to decide when a next round of cancellations would be necessary. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 have been scrapped, costing players about $170 million in salaries.
Still, it was unclear whether they were closing the divide between them on two main issues, the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system.
Players believe owners’ attempts to make the luxury tax more punitive and limit the use of spending exceptions will effectively create a hard salary cap, which they say they will refuse to accept. Also, each side has formally proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement.
Talks originally weren’t planned Wednesday, the 111th day of the lockout, because owners had previously scheduled meetings. But the labor relations committee returned about 10 a.m. to resume negotiations with the players’ executive committee, just eight hours after the sides wrapped up a marathon 16-hour session with Cohen on Tuesday night.
Owners then postponed the planning committee meeting that was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Wednesday so they could keep talking with players. That meeting was to feature a presentation on the league’s plans for expanded revenue sharing among teams, which Stern said will be introduced after the collective bargaining agreement with the players has been completed.
Unable to make any real headway in recent weeks on the division of revenue and the cap structure, both sides welcomed the presence of Cohen, who also spent 16 days trying to resolve the NFL’s labor dispute in February and March.
Their first day together produced a bargaining session that was more than twice as long as any previous one since owners locked out players when the old collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.
Neither side commented on Tuesday’s talks at Cohen’s request, and an NBA spokesman said that policy could continue Wednesday.