NEW YORK — There’s still time for a deal to keep the entire NBA season intact, though it’s running out.
And with that in mind, owners and players realize it’s time to stop talking about each other, and start talking to each other.
They returned to the bargaining table Wednesday, meeting for about six hours in just their second bargaining session since the league’s lockout began on July 1.
“Everyone loses if we don’t reach an agreement, that’s something that I think has always been understood,” union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said. “But as we approach Sept. 1 and obviously the training camp schedule to start on Oct. 1, the urgency is just continuing to build and increase on both sides, and we’re going to remain focused on finding a way to get this done.”
Neither side offered any specifics or would say if progress was made, but said they plan many more meetings in hopes of having basketball begin without interruption.
“I don’t see any benefit to characterizing our positions,” Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said, a thought repeated frequently by both sides.
“I will say we are not apart in terms of an agreed urgency on getting a deal done and we’re not apart on the need to avoid missing games and we’re not apart on the agreed impact that will have, not just on our teams and our players, but the communities in which they operate in as well.”
Commissioner David Stern and San Antonio owner Peter Holt, head of the labor relations committee, also represented the owners at a Manhattan hotel. Executive director Billy Hunter and attorney Ron Klempner attended from the union.
The sides hadn’t met since Aug. 1, despite saying they hoped to follow that with multiple sessions before the end of the month. They are far apart on major issues, but Stern said there is “clearly enough time” to make a deal that would allow the regular season to open as scheduled on Nov. 1.
He added he has no timetable for when cancellations might be necessary. The NBA quickly shot down a report this week they would happen at an owners meeting on Sept. 15.
“We don’t have any deadlines in mind,” Stern said. “We just have meetings in mind and discussions in mind.”
Neither side would say when or where the next meetings would take place, indicating a desire for a level of privacy that has been largely absent in the process. Stern was critical of the players while meeting with the media after the Aug. 1 session, and Fisher said “things seem to get spun out of control, either by us or by them” whenever they talk specifics in the press.
“So we’re just going to focus on the deal. That’s all we can do,” Fisher said. “We feel it’s the best way to respect the process, to just try to do a better job of staying clear of that type of situation.
“We just feel that a little bit less — or a lot less — of talking outside of the room and more talking inside of the room is better for everyone,” he added.
Fisher said there were no new proposals for a new deal. The players made the last one on June 30, an offer the league said would have increased average player salaries to nearly $7 million in the sixth year.
Owners, seeking significant salary reductions from the players after losing hundreds of millions of dollars in each year of the previous CBA, imposed the lockout hours later, and nothing much has happened since.
Stern set Labor Day weekend as an unofficial deadline for when progress needed to be made during an ESPN.com podcast earlier this month.
So, is he satisfied?
“We had a meeting before Labor Day and agreed that we would continue to meet,” Stern said.
Following the schedule from the 1998 lockout, the only time the NBA lost games to a work stoppage, the NBA has a couple of weeks before anything is in jeopardy. The start of camps, then scheduled for Oct. 5, were postponed on Sept. 24, and the first preseason games weren’t called off until Oct. 6.
The first exhibition games this year are set for Oct. 9, and maybe they can still happen.
“It’s very obvious that coming out of the lockout being July 1 and into this part of August, it’s very clear both sides are feeling a sense of urgency,” Fisher said. “We’re very focused on getting a deal done and that’s how we’ll proceed from this point going forward.”
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http:///www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney