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Today’s NBA talks are considered crucial

By Brian Mahoney
Associated Press / October 4, 2011

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NEW YORK - After a lockout that has lasted more than three months, whether the NBA season starts on time could come down to one “very huge day’’ in labor talks.

Owners and players will be back today for a full bargaining session, knowing if they fail to produce results, there may not be enough time left to avoid canceling regular-season games.

“A lot of signs point to [today] being a very huge day,’’ players’ association president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said. “There will be a lot of pressure on all of us in the room, and we’ll accept that responsibility and go in and see what we can get worked out.’’

Celtics guard Paul Pierce was the only other player to take part. Though not a member of the union executive committee, he participated in meetings over the weekend and NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver had singled him out as a player who had said meaningful things.

The sides met in small groups yesterday for about five hours, a session that Silver said was mainly about “setting the table’’ for today. While careful not to put too much pressure on today’s talks, he and commissioner David Stern made it clear that it is crucial that there be signs of compromise.

“Each side understands exactly what’s at stake and where potentially there is movement in order to try to get a deal done,’’ Silver said. “I mean, we can only say we’re running out of time so many times.

“We both understand that if we don’t make our best offers in the next few days, we’re going to be at the point where we’re going to be causing damage to the game, to ourselves, and they’re going to be out paychecks,’’ he added.

The regular season is scheduled to open Nov. 1. Players would have reported to training camps yesterday, but those were postponed and 43 preseason games scheduled for Oct. 9-15 were canceled last month.

“We still are in the same position that we all wish we were starting training camp today and we know a lot of our fans in respective markets feel the same way,’’ Fisher said. “So we’re going to continue to work at this until we can either figure it out in a way that will spare us all a lot of collateral damage and games missed, or not, but we’re going to put the effort and the time in as we have been doing and see if we can come to a resolution.’’

The league locked out players July 1 after the expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement. Seeking significant changes after saying they lost $300 million last season, owners want a new salary cap structure and are seeking to reduce the players’ guarantee of basketball revenues from 57 percent to 50 percent or lower.

Fisher, who didn’t take questions, said the sides still weren’t close enough to be able to talk about major progress, but were aware of the calendar.

“We know that our backs are against the wall in terms of regular-season games and what those consequences will be,’’ he added, “but we still have to be respectful to the process, not rush through this, realizing that there are a great deal of ramifications for years to come. So we have to be responsible in that regard.’’

The sides will meet among themselves in the morning before the bargaining session in the afternoon.

“If it’s a very short meeting, that’s bad,’’ Stern said. “And if it’s a very long meeting, that’s not as bad.’’

Stern had warned last week there would be “enormous consequences’’ to not making progress over the weekend, but he’s since been cautious not to overstate anything.

“It would be great to be able to make some real progress tomorrow,’’ he said. “Whether that’s possible or not, I don’t know, but we had a good meeting today defining the issues and positions and we’ll see how that works.’’

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