We've been talking about the upcoming NBA season as more of a conceptual project than an actuality, but now it looks like that season could become a reality as big guns for both the NBA Player's Association and the league come together in New York on Friday for what Commissioner David Stern has described as a critical day or weekend of negotiating sessions. ESPN, as well as several other media outlets, is reporting that the players' executive committee which includes Roger Mason, Jr., Chris Paul and the San Antonio Spurs' Matt Bonner, plus superstars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, along with up to 15 NBA owners have been invited to Friday's crucial bargaining session.
"I'm focused on let's get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that's what's at risk this weekend," Commissioner David Stern said.
Both Stern and NBAPA president Derek Fisher said enough progress hasn't been made to say any sort of deal imminent, but Tuesday's session brought the sides closer than they've been throughout the entire process.
According to ESPN's Ric Bucher, the owners are willing to come off their demands of a hard salary cap if the players are willing to continue to keep the Larry Bird exemption (the rule that allowed to go over the cap to keep Duncan, Parker, Manu and Jefferson), shorten the length of the mid-level exemption and lower how much players can sign for, and severely increase the penalty for teams in the luxury tax. Currently, teams have to pay $1 for $1 penalty when they're in the luxury tax, the new system could force them to pay as much as a $4 to $1 penalty. That would be a stiff, stiff penalty for a team like Dallas, who was almost $30 million over the cap this past season and the Lakers, who were $33 million over the cap this past season.
What the two sides are the farthest apart on is still the BRI or basketball related income. The owners are now offering a 48% percent split to the players, which is up from where they were previous, but still far away from the 54% split the players are currently offering. Logic would say that the two sides will eventually meet somewhere in the 50-52% range, but it all depends on how many owners want to reinvent the current NBA system and make it more like hockey.
Coming off the hard cap policy is seemingly a step towards compromise, but we'll see what happens when that many owners and that many players come face to face on Friday.
Side note: Decent chance LeBron and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert are in the same room together on Friday.