The NBA and the NBA Players Association continued their high-stakes game of chicken Tuesday, with the NBAPA rejecting the NBA's take-it-or-it'll-get-worse ultimatum, which came with a Wednesday deadline of 5 p.m.
"The current offer on the table is one that we can not accept," said Derek Fisher, president of the NBAPA. "We are willing to continue discussions on a compromise."
Added Billy Hunter, Executive Director of the NBAPA: "Players are still of the mindset they will not accept a bad deal. That's the message we have to send to the other side."
The union made it clear it is very much in the mood to continue to negotiate and work towards a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
But it's unclear if NBA commissioner David Stern will stick to the take-it-or-it'll-get-worse mantra he adopted following the most recent bargaining session.
Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBAPA, said he'll place a call to Stern Tuesday night night to try and have another bargaining session prior to Wednesday's deadline.
"I anticipate we'll have a meeting before 5 p.m. (Wednesday)," Hunter said.
In an interview with NBA-TV, Stern said he would take a phone call from Hunter. But he did not say whether or not he would meet with Hunter, adding that he would have to first talk with the NBA's Labor Relations Committee.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Stern outlined several key components of the deal currently on the table, such as a 50-50 split of the basketball-related income, a "mini" mid-level exception, as well as mechanisms geared toward steering teams away from surpassing the luxury tax threshold so frequently.
"If we're unable to make a deal on those terms," Stern said at the time, "By the close of business on Wednesday, we will be making a new proposal . . . which is multifaceted, but for purposes of this press conference, suffice to say, it will be a 47 percent proposal and a flex cap and lots of other issues that you have become familiar with in the course of these negotiations. We hope that this juxtaposition will cause the union to access its position and accept the deal."
The union has made a number of concessions on the economics of a new CBA, and is looking for concessions on the league's part on system-related issues.
"There are certain things in the system we have to have," Fisher said.
Some of the system issues include:
Length of mid-level exception contracts (NBA wants the length to be four years, and then three years the following year; the union wants it to be four years, every year).
Tax-paying teams being able to use the full mid-level exception (the NBA wants them to have a "mini" mid-level which can be used once every two years; union is opposed to this).
Sign-and-trades for tax-paying teams. (The NBA wants to eliminate it; the union wants to keep it.)
Escrow funds withheld from players paychecks (players want a maximum of 10 percent withheld, while the owners are looking for a significantly larger chunk to be withheld).
So when Hunter says that the differences between the two sides involve more than just a few "tweaks," he's not kidding.
Hunter has been given the go-ahead to continue negotiating with the NBA on economic issues, which essentially means the union is now willing to accept a 50-50 split of the BRI, provided certain system issues are addressed.
In an interview with NBA-TV following Hunter and Fisher's press conference on Tuesday, Stern did not sound as though there was much, if anything, left to negotiate.
When asked about whether there was any wiggle room remaining to negotiate on regarding system issues, Stern responded, "As of Saturday, or Sunday morning as of 3 in the morning, there was nothing left."