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Mediator steps in today to try to help salvage NBA season

Tue., Oct. 18, 2011

NEW YORK – The NBA and players’ association are ready to try mediation, and commissioner David Stern wants results quickly.

Stern said last week during an interview with WFAN radio in New York that without a deal today, when the sides meet with federal mediator George Cohen, his “gut” was that there wouldn’t be NBA basketball on Christmas.

Owners are opening two days of board meetings Wednesday, and Stern wants to be able to bring a deal to them.

But can a mediator swoop in and smooth out two years of bickering in one day?

Players already feel they’ve conceded plenty financially, and they dismissed Stern’s attempt to attach added importance to today’s talks, with union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers saying it was just an “arbitrary deadline” for potential Christmas cancellations.

Players oppose a hard salary cap, and they believe owners’ attempts to make the luxury tax more punitive and limit the use of spending exceptions will effectively create one. Also, each side has formally proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

With so many issues remaining, it seems too much to get done in one day. Executive director Billy Hunter said Friday after meeting with players in Los Angeles that the union sought to have the whole week set aside for mediation, but that the league wouldn’t commit to that because of its owners meetings.

“The Board of Governors meeting has been scheduled for a year for Wednesday and Thursday. We told the mediator that we would make ourselves available day and night on all other days,” Stern said in a statement to the Associated Press.

“If there’s a breakthrough, it’s going to come on Tuesday,” he told NBA TV. “And if not, I think that the season is really going to potentially escape from us because we aren’t making any progress.”

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