Roger Mason: Sides still far apart

NEW YORK -- Knicks shooting guard and NBA Players' Association vice president Roger Mason considers himself an optimist. But he is not certain that a new collective bargaining agreement with the league will be in place by July 1.

"I'm hopeful," Mason said, "but right now the gap is pretty wide as far as the league and the latest proposal that they gave us, and what we're willing to do as players."

Talks between the owners and the players' union were to resume Thursday in Dallas.

Mason pointed to two major disagreements that the players' union has with the owners' recent proposal: The owners' desire for a hard salary cap and their proposed split of the league's basketball-related income between owners and players.

The two sides are so far apart, Mason said, that cap numbers and revenue sharing percentages aren't being considered. He said the league and the union are only talking through the two main issues and haven't yet addressed other concerns, including health benefits and the possibility of contraction.

Mason acknowledged that at the end of the day, the players' union will have to loosen its grip on the proceedings in order for a new CBA to be finalized.

"We've got to understand we're going to have to take some skin of the game, just because the forecast in America right now is not great," Mason said. "We understand the landscape has changed since the last deal, so we're willing to make concessions, but I think what the owners are asking right now is just way too much, and it's above and beyond [the money] they're losing.

"Obviously they claim a [financial] loss and we have sympathy for that and are willing as players to sacrifice something. But right now that gap is pretty wide as far as what that something is," he said.

Mason was a high school senior during the 1998-99 NBA lockout. While he didn't understand the NBA's inner workings at the time, he remembers feeling very disappointed that a deal couldn't be worked out sooner.

Not only does he feel the same way now, but he's now fully aware of the league's business side -- and doesn't want history to repeat itself.

"Sometimes there are circumstances where you just can't make decisions that are going to harm the future for our league," Mason said. "I wouldn't feel good about leaving the league five, six, seven years from now and youngsters coming in with this type of agreement. I would feel horrible if I left the game that way myself."