SALT LAKE CITY -- NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio both insisted it is "absolutely a priority" for the two sides to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement ahead of the March 31 mutual opt-out date of the current CBA.
"I would just say it's an absolute priority for us as well to get a deal done as soon as possible," Silver said at his annual news conference before the Saturday night events at this year's All-Star Weekend at Vivint Arena.
Tremaglio echoed Silver's sentiment a couple of hours earlier, after the NBPA spent the past two days meeting to elect members to its executive committee and discuss the CBA talks.
"We are very motivated to get this done," Tremaglio said. "Our players are very competitive, and we want to see [this to] completion as well. So, it is absolutely a priority for us."
When asked directly if he expected a deal would be done before March 31, Silver said, "It's my hope that the deal will be done by then."
Earlier this month, the two sides agreed to move the opt-out date back to March 31, the second time it had been pushed back from the original date of Dec. 15. The two sides had originally agreed to move it back to Feb. 8, before again shifting it to late March.
Throughout the process, however, sources on both sides of the discussions have indicated there has been positive momentum in the talks, and that the expectation is that a deal will eventually get done. Those sentiments were expressed again Saturday.
"I would say that we're in a great space," said New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, who is president of the NBPA. "We continue to move forward, and I'm happy with the progress that we continue to make, although there is room for more improvement in areas in which we'll continue to grow. I think we're definitely heading in the right direction."
While both sides have declined to publicly debate the issues that are preventing them from completing an agreement, a few came up Saturday. The oft-discussed topic of load management is one both sides have admitted they are discussing, while McCollum said he sees the value in a potential midseason tournament -- in part because his brother, Errick, spent years playing for elite European teams, who have similar models.
McCollum also cited the play-in tournament as an example that shows how the addition of a midseason tournament could add value to the league.
"I think we are optimistic about some of the opportunities that can be associated with a midseason tournament," McCollum said. "Obviously, we're still working through logistics and what that kind of looks like, the financial implications behind the midseason tournament. I think, as a player who has played in play-in games probably more than I would have liked to at this point in my career, I think there was probably some pessimism and optimism mixed in from our fan base about what that was going to look like.
"I think based on recent years, it's been a success. I think people have enjoyed it, the competitive nature behind it, the fact that teams who would normally not have a chance to make the playoffs have a chance to play competitive meaningful games."
It was competition that, Silver said, was the impetus behind the changes the league is looking to implement throughout bargaining talks, though he declined to specifically say what they would be.
"I think, for us, our greatest focus is having the greatest competition possible out there," Silver said. "I think we've made great headway over the years as we've improved the system to have more competition, as we're seeing, clearly, from this season.
"I think you need more data to know whether the season is an aberration or whether it's a result, in part, of the system we now have in place. The league's view is that there are changes that we can make that will make the league even that much more competitive."
Another topic addressed by union leadership was the possibility of lowering the age limit to allow high school players to enter the draft once again. This would eliminate the "one-and-done" rule that has been in place for the past couple of decades.
While the union said it was open to the idea, it was clear any such change would have to be met with some ability to ensure jobs for veteran players would remain in place. There would also need to be a structure in place to ensure those young players coming into the NBA have the best chance to succeed.
"This is something that we have had conversations about," Tremaglio said. "In our meetings today, we spent a lot of time talking about that.
"We recognize that we really do need to make sure that we have the structure in place, if we're going to have people join the league at the age of 18. We also appreciate that there is a lot of benefit to really having veterans who can bring those 18-year-olds along. And so you know, certainly anything that we would even consider, to be quite honest, would have to include a component that would allow veterans to be a part of it as well."
As part of its meetings this week, the NBPA voted Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams into its first vice president job, second in command within the union behind McCollum. Williams, who had been a vice president, replaced Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala in the role.
The union also voted in two new vice presidents, both of whom are here this weekend as All-Stars: Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell and Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. One of them took the spot vacated by Williams, while the other took a spot formerly held by Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving, who had served a three-year term as a vice president.
"I want to thank, obviously, Andre for his time and presence with our union," Tremaglio said. "He is a tech titan, a business titan, and he's really been instrumental in growing the game of basketball."
Tremaglio also thanked Irving.
"We have spent a significant amount of time with Kyrie," she said. "He has been an instrumental part of our executive committee. He is always present. He has been someone that people have really considered to be a mentor, and that they have sought advice from, so Kyrie will certainly be missed, but we are grateful for the time that he's spent with us and the union."