By Frank Hanrahan
It's still game-point between the NBA players and owners as negotiations to settle the lockout appear to be so close but still so far away.
The painstaking back and forth has gone on now for 134 days. Fans should be watching the second week of the regular season, but instead they are subjected to viewing late-night news conferences from commissioner David Stern and players' union head Billy Hunter on where the talks stand. So far it's been the same every time, too -- no deal.
A new proposal was put on the table by the owners for the players' union to mull over and to decide by either Monday or Tuesday of next week whether to take it or leave it. The proposal offers a 72-game season, which would start December 15. Reports already have surfaced that the players aren't going to agree to the deal.
The players seem to be willing to accept the owners' offer of a reduced 50-50 split of basketball related income (down from a 57-43 split), but the players want to hammer out multiple system issues like a luxury tax and the mid-level exception.
Progress appears to have been made between the two sides, but until the announcement of a breakthrough is official, the long wait remains for NBA basketball to start.
"It's not the greatest proposal in the world," NBA players' union head Billy Hunter said Thursday night. "But I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership. So that's what we're going to do."
That doesn't sound promising does it?
Already the first month of the season has been lost and more of it most certainly will be if this latest proposal is not agreed to by the players next week.
"There comes a time when you have to be through negotiating, and we are," commissioner David Stern said. "This is the best attempt by the labor relations committee and therefore the NBA to address the concerns that the players expressed coming out of their meeting of the player representatives."So the owners have put the ball in the players' court. Will they take a shot? It's doubtful and it's hard to blame them.
That's where we are.