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NBA Standing Stern In Labor Negotiations

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NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA players association has told its members that the league has not moved off its original negotiating position, and reiterated to them it would not accept a hard salary cap or the massive salary rollbacks being sought.

The players have received an audio podcast and mailings outlining the owners’ proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement, along with details of a union counterproposal that includes rolling back the draft age requirement to 18, a person with knowledge of its contents told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person requested anonymity because the contents were not made public.

The players rejected the league’s initial proposal during All-Star weekend in February and delivered their own on July 1, one that the person said was “designed to move the negotiations forward and the union’s intent was to come up with a proposal that addresses the concerns of both sides.”

It even offers to negotiate a reduction in the players’ guarantee of 57 percent of basketball revenues, which Commissioner David Stern has said is a central issue in the negotiations.

Stern said it was too similar to the current system and was rejected, and both sides say there has been little progress since. Union executive director Billy Hunter said last month he was “99 percent sure” there would be a lockout when the CBA expires June 30, 2011.

Stern has said the league wants to cut salary costs by $700 million to $800 million, a reduction of almost 40 percent. The league also wants to eliminate fully guaranteed contracts.

The players also were told the league seeks to eliminate all exceptions that allow teams to exceed the salary cap and that they “will not agree to a hard cap on the heels of the league generating record revenues year after year.”

The union argues that the current system has largely worked, telling members that with its proposals it is “shifting the responsibility to the teams to make better business decisions.”

The players’ proposal calls for increased revenue sharing, saying small-market teams need relief and it shouldn’t be strictly from the players. They say a “portion of national revenue, plus a meaningful percentage of unshared local revenue should be reallocated.”

Stern has said expanded revenue sharing will come along with a new CBA, but not as a part of it. The league is still determining what model it wants to use, and the union likely will want details of it during negotiations.

A request was made with the NBA for comment.

Other highlights of the union’s proposal, according to the person:

—Enhanced “trade and signing flexibility,” such as the elimination of base-year compensation and altering the rule requiring salaries in a trade to match within 125 percent when a team is over the cap, which the union says would benefit both sides by making deals easier. The players also seek to reduce the window for teams to match offers to restricted free agents, which is currently a week.

—Rolling back the draft age requirement from 19 to 18, with perhaps a financial incentive for athletes who attend college. The league has been expected to push for a new limit of 20.

—Neutral review of on-court discipline. Players currently can only appeal to an arbitrator for suspensions of more than 12 games. Less than that, the appeal goes to Stern’s office.

—Replacing the biannual exception, worth $2 million, with a second midlevel exception, available to teams each year for the value of the average NBA salary that season ($5.8 million this season), and reducing the maximum length of both midlevels from five years to four.

—A request to negotiate “enhanced pension benefits” for retired players.