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NEW YORK — NBA players have an offer that could get them up to 51 percent of basketball-related income.

They rejected it Saturday, and if they don’t take it by the close of business Wednesday, they’ll get a proposal that would guarantee them just 47 percent and call for a flex salary cap.

While refusing to characterize his proposal as an ultimatum, Commissioner David Stern said his owners are ready to make a deal.

“We want to allow the union enough time to consider our most recent proposal, and we are hopeful that they will accept,” he said.
As for the Wednesday deadline, he added that it “doesn’t aid the negotiating process to just leave it hanging out there.”

Union president Derek Fisher said players proposed a deal with a fair system at around 51 percent for themselves. He characterized the NBA offer as “a system that is not a fair system” and a revenue split that was really 50 percent.
“We made the moves that we needed to make to get this deal done on the economics,” he said.

Fisher said the NBPA will be in constant communication with players through Wednesday but there’s not enough of an offer to merit calling a vote.

“Today was another sad day for our fans, for arena workers, our parking lot attendants, our vendors. Very frustrating, sad day,” Fisher added. “We, for sure, unequivocally, made good faith efforts to try to get this deal done tonight. And we’re at a loss for why we could not close it out.”

Though Stern refused to say the offer was an ultimatum, that’s exactly how it appeared to Fisher: “That’s the end of the road for them. There is no more negotiating.”

Players and owners met with federal mediator George Cohen for more than eight hours, and Stern said Cohen offered six “what if?” recommendations relating to the BRI split and the salary cap system.

Stern said owners accepted the first five and would put them in writing in a formal proposal to the players, hopefully Sunday. But it wasn’t acceptable Saturday, with Stern saying players’ attorney Jeffrey Kessler rejected it.

“I think it’s fair to say that speaking on behalf of the union, Mr. Kessler rejected the mediators’ recommendations and our proposal,” Stern said. “But hope springs eternal and we would love to see the union accept the proposal that is now on the table.”

Though insistent on no more than a 50-50 split, owners will offer the players a band that would allow them to receive between 49 percent and 51 percent.

Fisher was not impressed.

“There’d be no way in the world we’d ever get to 51 percent, so it’s not a band,” he said.

Players have been seeking to receive 52.5 percent of revenues after they were guaranteed 57 percent in the old collective bargaining agreement.

After “frank and open dialogue” at an owners meeting earlier Saturday, Stern said he believes owners would support this deal.

He would not speculate as to the odds on whether players will take the deal.

“I’m not going to make percentage guesses or anything like that. We want our players to play. We’d like to have a season,” Stern said. “These are the terms upon which we’re prepared to gear up and get in as many games as possible.”

Owners, however, are determined to reshape the league by creating a system like the NFL or NHL, where spending is capped and small-market teams truly can compete with the big boys. But reforming the NHL’s financial structure wiped out the entire 2004-05 season. And the NFL is making money, not losing it.

Last month Spurs owner Peter Holt was asked if owners might be willing to sit out a year to get the changes they crave. He said owners don’t want to lose the season but that there are certain things they must have in a new deal.

Union executive director Billy Hunter has long believed it was very possible that this season would be lost. He started to believe two or three years ago that owners intended to lock out the players so they could force through the changes they wanted.

Fisher echoed that early Sunday morning.

“We anticipated and expected to be here, that the NBA and their teams intended to lock us out for as long as they needed to in order to get what they wanted,” he said. “Our players are prepared. We’re aware.”


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