It's crunch time for NBA negotiations

LeBron James (right) participates in an exhibition game on Sunday. The NBA players union is...

LeBron James (right) participates in an exhibition game on Sunday. The NBA players union is expected to bring in heavy hitters such as James when it meets for negotiations with the league on Friday and the weekend. (Reuters)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:27 PM ET

TORONTO - David Stern elevated the rhetoric on Wednesday.

But even if much of what he said was over the top by design in order to pressure both sides into a deal, it is clear we are approaching a major crossroads in the talks to end the NBA lockout and save the 2011-12 season.

“There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend,” said the NBA commissioner after four hours of talks between the league and its players’ association wrapped up in Manhattan.

The two sides will meet again on Friday and on the weekend, with the NBPA expected to bring in heavy hitters like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony for the first time in what will be major sessions, the first since the lockout began on July 1st.

According to Yahoo! Sports, the owners finally moved on demands for a hard salary cap on Tuesday, though restrictive stipulations were inserted in its place.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports said the owners stuck to that line of thinking Wednesday.

If they are going to budge on a hard cap, they will do so only if they punish the players in other areas.

NBPA president Derek Fisher alluded that the two sides aren’t all that close to a deal, but are meeting simply because if they don’t, they will run out of time to get a season.

“I think it points more toward the calendar than actually being able to measure progress,” Fisher said.

“It points to the realities that we face with our calendar and that if we can’t find a way to get some common ground really, really soon, then the time of starting the regular season at its scheduled date is going to be in jeopardy big-time.

“I can’t say that common ground is evident, but our desire to try to get there I think is there,” said the longtime Laker. “We still have a great deal of issues to work through, so there won’t be any magic that will happen this weekend to just make those things go away. But we have to put the time in. We have a responsibility to people to do so.”

Not the most promising words in the world, but, again, there are a lot of things to be ironed out before the talks can take a major step forward.

As Stern said of the coming discussions: “I’m focused on, let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season.

“(It’s) a period of enormous opportunity and great risk.”

The risk is that if a deal isn’t in sight in a few days, it will only be a month until the scheduled start of the regular season and there won’t be enough time to have free agency, training camps and exhibition games without some real contests being wiped out. Already, 43 pre-season games have been cancelled.


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