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Bigger group makes no headway in NBA labor negotiations

Expanded groups representing NBA owners and the players union failed to make progress toward a new labor agreement during a five-hour meeting in New York on Tuesday, endangering the scheduled start of the season.

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players union, told reporters he was “a bit pessimistic” that season openers would be held as scheduled Nov. 1 after owners rejected an informal proposal that would have reduced player salaries while maintaining a flexible salary cap.

“We were prepared to compromise somewhat on the position that we’d staked out previously in the hopes that we could get a deal, save dollars and maybe start the season on time,” Hunter said. " … The owners are not inclined at this stage to move off the position where they’ve anchored themselves.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters the union’s insistence on preserving the so-called soft salary cap had left negotiations at a stalemate. Owners prefer a hard cap because they believe it would curb financial losses and improve competitive equity.

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“We reiterated to the players that we need a system that is economically feasible,” Stern said, “and one that allows all of our teams to not only make a profit if they are well operated, but also to compete.”

Stern said the league had made concessions on its proposed breakdown of revenue and described as inaccurate the union’s assertion that owners had not budged from the proposal they made in late June.

With training camps set to begin in less than three weeks, the impasse is threatening changes to the NBA calendar. Training camps are scheduled to start Oct. 3 and exhibition games six days later.

When the NBA last locked out its players in 1998 and condensed its season to 50 games, training camps scheduled to start Oct. 5 were postponed on Sept. 24.

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Players expressed frustration after Tuesday’s meeting ended. Lakers forward Devin Ebanks tweeted, “I WANNA GO BAK [sic] TO WORK … IM TIRED OF JUST WORKING OUT LOL.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the first since late June to take place with full groups representing the owners’ labor relations committee and the union’s executive committee.

Recent meetings were held in groups of three to five people representing each side. Stern had said it was prudent to have larger groups meet Tuesday in the hope it could accelerate movement with the season rapidly approaching. Any deal would require participation from the full committees.

Owners and players will meet in the next few days — just not with each other. Owners will gather in Dallas on Thursday for a previously scheduled board of governors meeting. Players are expected to hold a membership meeting the same day in Las Vegas, where scores of players will participate in the Impact Basketball League.

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Lakers guard Derek Fisher has backed out of participating in the 12-day event — a series of training sessions and informal games organized to keep players in shape — citing his responsibilities as president of the players’ association.

Stern said owners would discuss what he called a “substantial” revenue-sharing plan during their meeting Thursday but did not anticipate pushing back the start of training camps.

That announcement could come soon enough, unless a breakthrough emerges in the next week or so.

“We’re not marching toward getting a deal done at this time,” Fisher told reporters. “Because of the calendar, we can’t come out of here feeling training camp and the season will start on time.”

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ben.bolch@latimes.com


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