NEW YORK — Amid outsized expectations for progress, top negotiators for the NBA and players’ union met for five hours Thursday with both sides refusing to charaterize the talks.
“We’re not going to draw any conclusions or say anything other than we had a full day and we hope to meet again next week,” commissioner David Stern said on his 69th birthday.
Stern intimated that he and deputy commissioner Adam Silver will brief the full labor relations committee Friday, presumably by phone, on the status of talks. It is widely anticipated that, without a deal, the league will announce in the coming days — perhaps as early as Friday — that it is postponing the start of training camps and preseason. Camps were supposed to open Oct. 3.
“I have no announcement to make today, but the calendar is not our friend,” Stern said.
Derek Fisher, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, also used that phrase about the calendar and was equally protective of details from Thursday’s talks, which included the smaller group of negotiators who’d made progress in a series of three meetings that began Aug. 31. Fisher and Stern emerged from the Upper East Side hotel with an equally flatlined demeanor and monotoned speech — evidence, perhaps, that there was agreement on at least one aspect of the negotiations: that neither side would put on a public show or negotiate in the media.
In declining to answer a string of specific questions about the bargaining session, Stern at one point interjected, “I’m sorry, but the most important thing is to see whether we can’t have negotiations conducive to ultimately getting a deal, which is what our committee and our board will like. And having these conversations with you doesn’t add anything to that. And that’s the dilemma.”
The talks involving the heavy hitters — Stern, Silver, Spurs owner Peter Holt and deputy general counsel Dan Rube for the league and union chief Billy Hunter, Fisher, general counsel Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy for the players — followed a full day of what Silver described as “more intensive discussions” among lawyers and staff for both sides at the NBPA’s Harlem office. Stern wouldn’t say if the league brought anything new to the table coming out of Wednesday’s meetings and a gathering of the full Board of Governors las week in Dallas.
“I’m not going to say,” Stern said when aked if any proposals were exchanged.
Fisher said no new topics were discussed Thursday and said the league provided no details of its revenue sharing plan.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to come together,” Fisher said. “We couldn’t do it today, and hopefully we’ll get another opportunity next week to continue to try and figure this thing out.”