MIAMI -- The NBA and its Players Association negotiated as promised today at a downtown hotel and both sides came away encouraged by the talks while admitting they are no closer to an agreement.
Several owners, including Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, participated in the session along with the New York Knicks' Roger Mason, Keyon Dooling from the Milwaukee Bucks and Maurice Evans of the Washington Wizards. Grousbeck would not comment on the discussions.
Commissioner David Stern said there is a renewed urgency to reach a deal by July 1, when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
"Iíd say that we had a really good discussion," Stern said shortly after the negotiating session. "The idea was for the owners and players to exchange views and there was a full entertaining stage, sometimes quite animated, always in good humor. But it was important for the parties to hear each other out."
NBPA director Billy Hunter, who at times has appeared pessimistic about an agreement, said the talks were "fluid." The two sides have agreed to meet again June 7 and 8 in Dallas. The league wants to institute a hard salary cap, rollback on salaries and increase non-guaranteed contracts.
The players have said they are unwilling to budge on a hard salary cap and have disputed the leagueís claim that half the 30 teams are losing money.
"I think the tone and the fact that there were a lot of ideas that were put out that folks discussed on either side of the room (were good signs),Ē Hunter said. ďWe talked about our respective positions, something that we hadnít done before. I think it was productive for that reason.
"We got another three and half weeks to reach an agreement and that kind of puts pressure on the both of us. The issues are so complex that it just takes time to work through them.Ē
When asked if he felt a lockout was imminent, Hunter said: ďIím hopeful (it isnít). We know that the pressure is building and if anything is going to happen, itís gotta happen between now and July 1. Weíre going to make every effort to reach and deal and if we donít, we donít. But itís not going to be a lack of trying."