Longest labor meeting results in optimism

NEW YORK -- Around the time ESPN reported that Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Paul dropped out of the World All-Star Classic, word started spreading that progress was being made at Wednesday's NBA labor talks.

Well, after 15 hours of negotiations on the 18th floor of a swanky midtown New York City hotel -- the longest meeting since the lockout went into effect on July 1 -- the media received confirmation on what they had been hearing from different sources. The union and league were able to work through a number of system issues, although they declined comment on what those specifically were.

"There was some progress," said NBPA president Derek Fisher, who mentioned BRI was not discussed at all. "We're going to work as hard as we possibly can to get a deal done."

"It was a solid day of negotiations," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "This has been a very arduous and difficult day, and productive."

So productive, in fact, that a 82-game season could still be in reach with the regular season technically only one week away. While Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver didn't directly tell the union that a full schedule is feasible yet, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter says he's hopeful of one if a handshake is made before Monday.

"I think it's possible," Hunter said, "but it's going to be somewhat stressful because of probably the need to do some back-to-back games as we did in 1999."

When asked about the likelihood of 82 games, Stern didn't downplay the notion, nor did he put a specific date on when a deal would need to reached in order for no games to be missed.

"We want to try to schedule as many games as possible if we can make a deal this week, whether that gets to be 82 games or not is really dependent upon so many things that have to be checked," Stern said. "We've got building issues, we've got hockey issues, we've got travel schedules. We've got all kinds of things that are difficult for us. We have a sheer volume of games that might have to be compressed in the amount of back-to-backs that players could be asked to play -- and really in terms of the number of games that fans can be asked to attend, so these are all considerations. We're going to work on it with the union on this."

Both sides will reconvene Thursday at 2 p.m. to continue discussing system issues before they return to the split of the BRI. The groups will remain the same, except that union economist Kevin Murphy will not be present due to some family obligations. Hunter said that depending on how well the bargaining session goes, the union may be more explanatory about details they're trying to hammer out once they meet with the media Thursday night or in the wee hours again on Friday.

Hunter was also quick to point out that anything could change in the second meeting of a back-to-back. Silver also warned that there is still a lot of work to be done.

"I think it's too early, not just in the morning, but still in negotiations to express confidence that we're at a deal," Silver said. "There's no question, though, that we did make progress on some significant issues, but there are still some very significant issues left."

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