David Stern Issues Tougher Ultimatum

NEW YORK (AP) — Facing an afternoon deadline to make a deal or face a worse one, NBA players are meeting with the league in an attempt to end the lockout.

Day 132 of the work stoppage will be marked by Commissioner David Stern’s ultimatum: Accept the league’s latest proposal by the end of the business day or it will be replaced with a much harsher one that would drive the sides even farther apart.

The current offer calls for players to receive between 49 percent and 51 percent of basketball-related income, though union officials said it would be impossible to get above 50.2 percent. Players were guaranteed 57 percent of BRI under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

The next proposal would call for a 53-47 revenue split in the owners’ favor, essentially a hard salary cap and salary rollbacks, which the league originally sought but had taken off the table. Both proposals were sent to union executive director Billy Hunter on Sunday. Players said Tuesday they wouldn’t accept the current proposal as configured and asked to negotiate again before the Wednesday afternoon deadline.

The meeting featuring small groups from both sides was arranged Wednesday morning.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler took part along with other union negotiators, hours after saying he regretted telling the Washington Post that owners are treating players like “plantation workers” during the ongoing lockout. He added he planned to call Stern and apologize.

Besides the revenue split, the sides are still divided on elements of the salary cap system, mostly relating to the spending rules for teams that are over the luxury tax level. Players want those teams to remain options for free agents, whereas the league thinks talent would be more evenly distributed throughout the league if payrolls were more balanced.

Players indicated after their meeting Tuesday that they would be open to reducing their BRI take if owners made some changes on the system issues. Players offered to go to about 51 percent Saturday, with 1 percent going into a fund for retired player benefits.

Hunter said Tuesday he had heard Stern also planned to cancel games through Christmas without a deal Wednesday, though Stern later told NBA TV that “we have made no such plans, and we have had no such discussions.”

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.)