After nearly five hours of labor negotiations, NBPA president Derek Fisher walked into the players' union press conference room, followed by executive director Billy Hunter and the support of many of the top players in the league, including Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony. While Amare Stoudemire couldn't be there due to a "swamped schedule," Melo was joined by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Ben Gordon and Baron Davis. Also standing beside Fisher and Hunter included Arron Afflalo, Maurice Evans, Matt Bonner and Knicks guard Roger Mason Jr.
While one player said afterwards that both sides are "still far apart" on a deal, Fisher said the presence of the league's prominent faces was felt in the conference room and stimulated the talks.
"Some of our guys standing here right now have been kind of questioned in terms of their commitment to this process, their commitment to the union and to the game," Fisher said. "Their presence here today says a lot. These guys have always been here with us in spirit, they've always been here with us in terms of the cause and their influence, their suggestions and recommendations. Personally for me, as well as for the union, we really appreciate their presence here."
Fisher said "a handful" of the special guest attendees spoke up during the bargaining session. When asked who was the most vocal, he responded with, "I was," with a smile. He said more stars would show up during the weekend, but couldn't confirm rumors that Kobe Bryant would be there. After the union side presented their post-meeting thoughts, league commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver addressed the media. They also applauded the efforts of Melo and Co. to attend.
"Actually I think it was good that they're there because I know that the union has to answer certain questions from them and their agents," Stern said. "But they don't even need the union as an intermediary to understand the intensity of the views held by the owners about the need for a better economic system, a better system that makes our teams competitive."
Other noteworthy players who were present during the meeting, but exited early to their awaiting cars included Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Caron Butler, Eric Gordon, Udonis Haslem, Keyon Dooling and Theo Ratliff.
Stern said that while no formal proposal has been made yet, canceling the season after this weekend would be "ludicrous." Silver said the meetings would "of course" continue after Monday even with regular-season games on the line, but "as long as there is something to talk about." Silver said there are still "a lot of issues" on the table.
Talks resume tomorrow.
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