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Lockout Talks Resume Today

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No, this post isn't a week old. Or two weeks old. It just seems like it is. Because this has been the pattern. The league and the players get together for some all-important last ditch effort to "save the season" (or save an 82 game schedule or save the whales or save Ferris), they talk for two or three days, seeming to make progress, and then talks break down.

Maddeningly, as Tom Ziller points out, two of the last three break downs have reportedly been over the exact same issue - the owners refuse to talk any more unless the players accept a 50-50 revenue split, the players say no, both sides storm away and point fingers for awhile, and then they get back together, without the 50-50 split as a pre-condition. I'm not sure if the owners have ever taken a parenting class, but I'm told that backing down from an ultimatum is a bad idea.

Over four weeks ago now, on September 28th, it looked like the sides were closing in on a deal. But on October 4th, the negotiations broke down somewhere between a Kevin Garnett scowl and that first 50-50 ultimatum from the owners. They got back together on October 10th, this time with a David Stern declaration that games would be lost without a deal that day. That meeting ended over system issues, and the next day the first two weeks of the season were cancelled. At that time, I didn't expect another meeting for weeks, but federal mediator George Cohen stepped in and got the sides back together on October 18th. Three days of marathon meetings appeared to be going well before they were abruptly halted last Thursday - again over the 50-50 pre-condition.

The sides are talking again today, with the 50-50 pre-condition being put aside for a second time. I must admit, Stern and the owners are either more sincere about getting this thing resolved, or even more cynical than I suspected. When games were cancelled two weeks ago, I truly believed that there would not be another serious bargaining session until mid-November, when the players began missing pay days. I thought the owners were convinced they would have maximum leverage at that point, and that they were not going to take anything less than a dream deal until then. The fact that the sides are meeting again today either means that Stern is more serious (and wants a deal done sooner rather than later) or more cynical (and is just making a show of good faith and wasting everyone's time) than I thought. It remains to be seen which.

Although more games have yet to be cancelled, it's unrealistic to believe that the season could start on November 15th, even if a handshake agreement could be reached today. November 15th is less than three weeks from now, and there's simply no way to cram all the CBA issues AND free agency AND some semblance of training camp into that time. The best case scenario at this point is probably a December 1st start, with a compressed 82 game schedule that extends the regular season by a week or two. Rumors have persisted for some time now that the NBA scheduling experts have been working on just such a contingency plan.

After reaching three impasses in each of the last three weeks, don't be surprised if it happens again this time. But at least they're talking.