Labor talks enter phase that could determine next season's fate

The NBA labor talks concluded their most active period since
the lockout began and entered a new, crucial phase Thursday: a week of
meetings that are growing in size and importance that ultimately
could determine the fate of the 2011-12 season.
After a second straight day of negotiations totaling 11 hours with
only the heaviest hitters in the room, league and officials
emerged to announce they’re calling their full bargaining
committees to the city next week to weigh in. The full contingents
from the owners’ labor relations committee and the players’
executive committee will meet Tuesday morning, to be followed by a
previously scheduled owners’ meeting in Dallas and a meeting of
players the same day in Las Vegas — both on Sept. 15. Prior to
Tuesday’s larger meeting, top negotiators from both sides will
brief their constituents on where the talks stand after a
comparative whirlwind of bargaining that began Aug. 31.

The progress — if it can be called that, at least in terms of the pace and frequency of talks — comes at a time when sources say the spirit of the negotiations has evolved to a place where both sides are focused on trying to reach a compromise rather than obsessing over leverage and bargaining victories. So, too, will the size of the negotiations evolve, with constituents on both sides needing to join the process for it to have a chance to move forward from here.

"We think it’s getting to be an important time and it’s a good idea to have larger group meetings," commissioner David Stern said. "I don’t really know that it’s positive or negative. I just think it’s time to bring the parties into the room who are ultimately going to be responsible for either making a deal or deciding that there shouldn’t be a deal."

Stern said there was nothing formal to present to the rest of the owners’ labor committee; only chairman Peter Holt of the Spurs has attended the past three sessions.

"Not yet," said Stern, who added that the escalation of talks is "more because of the calendar" than a narrowing of the gap between the two sides.

Both sides stuck to their agreed upon gag order as far as characterizing the discussions or divulging details. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver took issue with president Derek Fisher’s recent assertion that no new proposals have been made by either side, but that seemed to be a question of semantics rather than a rift. Silver said the two sides have exchanged "proposals, ideas, concepts, numbers" and "we continue to" in an effort to reach a deal.

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