New York, NY Ė NBA owners and players talked again on Monday, mostly to set up a bigger meeting for Tuesday as the league's labor dispute groaned precariously into its fourth month.
The latest round of meetings came on the day training camps were originally scheduled to open for the 2011-12 season and included "constructive" talks on how to come to an agreement.
"We can only say we're running out of time so many times," deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. "We're now very close to the point where we're going to have to cancel regular season games."
Silver said meetings scheduled for Tuesday would include the NBA's full labor relations committee, about 10 owners, and a large group of players. On Monday, Celtics forward Paul Pierce and union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers were on hand for the talks.
"It would be great to be able to make real progress tomorrow. Whether that's possible or not, I don't know," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "We had a good meeting today defining the issues and the positions and we'll see how that works."
Players and owners will meet separately before getting together for the larger meeting at noon that will go a long way in determining if regular season games need to be canceled.
"If it's a very short meeting, that's bad," Stern said. "And if it's a very long meeting, that's not as bad."
Meanwhile, a letter said to be written by six powerful player agencies leaked Monday and warned players, among other things, not to accept a deal that would lower their share of basketball related income from 57 to 52 percent.
The letter, which was obtained and posted on ESPN.com, said such a deal would result in a transfer of more than $200 million -- or a minimum of $500,000 per player -- back to the owners.
The letter was written over the weekend and sent to player clients on Monday, ESPN said. It said a copy of the letter was obtained by a player who received it.
Stern said it would be "overstating" the matter to say each side would bring a new formal proposal to the negotiating table on Tuesday.
"Each side will come in, we believe, prepared to negotiate," he said.
Last month, the league postponed training camps and canceled 43 preseason games scheduled between October 9-15. The regular season is scheduled to begin November 1 as long as there is a new collective bargaining agreement in place.
Stern said it's unlikely the NBA would be able to have an 82-game season if it started later than November 1. Arenas have already asked about scheduling events on days set aside for NBA games that might be canceled, Stern said, and there is also the matter of the league's TV partners and their schedules.
"I'm not sure how easy it would be," Stern said. "But as we said to the players, everything's negotiable. It would be really great if we could start the season on time."
The NBA locked out its players July 1 after the most recent labor deal between the sides expired.
Unlike the labor strife that caused NFL lockout, which long appeared to be solvable, the problems facing the NBA have led observers to warn about a prolonged dispute like the one that canceled the 2004-05 NHL season.