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Stern says lack of an agreement 'not a good thing'

NEW YORK -- When commissioner David Stern meets with NBA
owners later this week to discuss collective bargaining
negotiations, the best he'll be able to provide them with is an
update.
A new labor agreement remains elusive despite at least 12
meetings between league and union negotiators, and it became clear
Tuesday that the regular season will end without a new deal in
place.
"It certainly has been our goal to get it done as soon as
possible. Without putting a date on it, every day we don't have it,
in our view, is not a good thing," Stern said in his annual
pre-playoff conference call with reporters.
Union negotiators traveled uptown to the league offices Tuesday
morning and met for about two hours with NBA officials. No details
of the meeting were disclosed.
The league's Board of Governors will meet at a Manhattan hotel
later this week, and Stern will deliver a briefing on the state of
negotiations.
Both sides have been publicly silent about the give-and-take
being conducted behind closed doors, although people involved in
the negotiations have indicated that significant differences remain
to be bridged on issues including a possible increase in the
minimum age, salary cap and luxury tax thresholds, maximum length
of contracts and the size of year-to-year increases that will be
permitted in future long-term player contracts.
An increase in the age limit has been one of the most publicly
debated issues. Under current rules, a U.S. player's high school
class must have graduated in order for him to become eligible for
the draft, while international players must turn 18 before the
draft in order to be eligible.
"If the age limit were to be raised, the people who were below
... would have an opportunity to play internationally, or in
college, or in the minor leagues. We don't see that as a
controversy," Stern said. "It means that an 18-year-old would be
treated the same way as a 17-year-old.
"If they (the union) and we agree to it, then it can be
implemented (for) the draft in 2006," Stern said.
Union director Billy Hunter and union president Michael Curry
did not return calls seeking comment.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30 at
11:59 p.m., and the sides hope to avoid a repeat of the seven-month
lockout that transpired the last time they had to work out a new
labor agreement seven years ago.
During the All-Star break in Denver in mid-February, union
president Michael Curry said he believed a new agreement could be
reached before the end of the regular season, and Stern and Hunter
echoed that optimism -- which turned out to be misplaced -- at a
joint news conference a day later.
Teams are completing their 82-game schedules Wednesday night and
beginning the playoffs Saturday, and Stern and Hunter will not
discuss when they might hold future negotiating sessions until
after Stern meets with the owners Thursday and Friday.