By A. Sherrod Blakely
LOS ANGELES As expected, the NBA and the player's union met on Friday during all-star weekend for about two hours in Beverly Hills, Calif.
And as expected, no consensus was reached on the best course of action to avoid a lockout with the current deal between the two factions set to expire June 30.
Union Executive Director Billy Hunter and union president Derek Fisher met with the media following Friday's meeting with the ownership.
Fisher described the meeting as "constructive," with both sides showing a "commitment to trying to get this process done."
That will be easier said than done.
Because the NBA is looking for significant changes to the new CBA, avoiding a work stoppage will be difficult.
A hard salary cap, changes to the way guaranteed contracts are done, salary cuts and revenue sharing were among the topics discussed between the two sides.
"We talked about our willingness to negotiate and get a deal," Hunter said. "We spelled out some things we thought were impediments to getting a deal."
The fact that both sides are having dialogue is a definite sign of progress after some acrimonious exchanges a year ago.
Paul Pierce is the Celtics' union representative.
Although he was relatively new to the league, Pierce said he did attend meetings prior to the league's last work stoppage that delayed the start of the 1998-1999 season.
"I was part of it in 1998. I was a rookie, so I didn't know too much about it but I attended meetings," Pierce said. "This year, the players are really unified and carrying our league forward in the future. Not only veterans such as myself, but the young guys which is going to make itassociation we're trying to make the league great moving forward."
Avoiding a lockout would certainly help those efforts along.
While there are many who are pessimistic about a deal being struck between the players and the owners, Miami's LeBron James remains hopeful.
"I'm optimistic about it," he said. "Hopefully both sides can come away with an agreement that benefits both sides. No one wants to see a lockout, not the fans, not the players, not the owners. This game is too big and everyone enjoys it so much. Hopefully things can get situated before the start of the season."