By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
While there's plenty of work to be done to save the 2011-2012 NBA season, there are - for now at least - signs that progress towards a new collective bargaining agreement is being made.
Representatives from the league and the players union met for about five hours on Wednesday, with another meeting scheduled for Thursday as well as the door being left open - depending on how much progress is made on Thursday - of another meeting on Friday.
After a summer in which neither side seemed all that motivated to work towards avoiding a labor stoppage, both sides have clearly picked up the pace.
Wednesday's meeting was just the third since the July 1 lockout.
The biggest concern among fans is whether there is enough time left to reach a deal that would allow for a full NBA season.
"I think there is," Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA players union, told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. "I think there clearly is. There's more than enough time."
And while neither side would confirm or deny if any concessions were made in Wednesday's meeting, the fact that both sides are willing to continue talks in advance of Thursday's meeting, bodes well for the chances that both sides are moving closer towards reaching a deal sooner rather than later.
"We agreed that we're going to sit here for as many days as we can to see if we're going to be able to make progress," NBA commissioner David Stern told reporters afterward.
As the two sides continue to work towards a new CBA, some of the hot-button topics of discussion include:
Hard salary cap (what the owners want) vs. a soft cap (the current salary cap model)
The owners have proposed a "flex" cap which would allow for some flexibility, but not nearly as much as teams have currently. The players union has shot this proposal down in the past.
Division of Basketball-Related Income
Under the recently expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, players received 57 percent of the Basketball-Related Income (BRI), a percentage the owners are seeking something closer to an even split.
Under the old CBA, players could sign long-term deals for five and six seasons. Owners are believed to desire the maximum length of deals to be shorter which would give them greater flexibility to get from under a bad contract.
According to Chris Sheridan (sheridanhoops.com), owners have proposed adding an additional round to the NBA draft which, in theory, would be used to create more "competiveness in the league."