For the first time since the July 1st lockout, representatives from both sides of the NBA labor dispute met on consecutive days this week in New York. Both meetings involved a small contingent of nine power brokers total from both sides. The union and the owners will take a long weekend before reconvening on Tuesday with a much larger group to continue the negotiations. Both sides were somewhat tight lipped about how much progress was made, but for the first time since the lockout began, people are actually talking about the season starting on time.
ESPN's report from Henry Abbott focused on Derek Fisher's statements made Thursday afternoon, and in particular on a couple possible Freudian slips which could lead one to believe a deal is close. Fisher actually used the words "deal" and "deal points," and was opaque enough in regards to a mysterious Tweet from union vice president Roger Mason's twitter account to leave the door open to the possibility of the season starting on time.
Chris Sheridan, formerly of ESPN and currently the proprietor of his own website replete with creepy pictures of european cheerleaders, believes there's a very good chance no games will be missed. Sheridan used to work for legitimate media outlets which, so there's no reason to doubt him when he says his sources are telling him the talks are going well, but when he gets into the economics of the situation, his logic is flimsy, at best. Sheridan attempts to take the same numbers we've been bombarded with for the past four months and twist them to make the gap seem inconsequential, then brushes off key sticking points for the owners such as the length of the deal (owners want 10 years, union wants 6), the hard salary cap and salary rollbacks. His sources may be telling him the sides are closer, but I doubt they're giving him specifics, his rationale essentially boils down to, "Well, as soon as the owners give in on these key points the deal will get done." If a deal is imminent, I don't think the it'll be because the owners have caved on all the issues.
Sheridan has another exclusive on his site, this one stating that the NBA wants a third round to be added to the draft. Personally, I think a third round is pointless. The second round is almost pointless at this point. Maybe it would be a bit more meaningful if NBA teams used the NBADL as a legitimate minor league, but even if they did, the NBA isn't like baseball. The odds of drafting someone and grooming them in the minors are very slim. There are 30 teams in the NBA and barely enough talent to spread across those rosters. I'm not sure I see the point of adding another round to the draft so guys who get "warm body" invites to training camps can instead be drafted before they're cut. Sheridan does talk about a few other interesting proposals involving the draft, but none of them will do much to swing the competitive balance of the league. The most radical of the proposals gives the worst teams in the league a second first round pick every year, late in the first round, and leaves the better teams with only second round picks. The end result of that would be more guaranteed first round contracts to middling pros from bad teams. When you're talking about turning a franchise around, it's lottery picks that matter, not late picks in the first.
Even if the sides are closer than ever on the big picture aspects of the CBA, there are way too many moving parts for a deal to officially get done quickly. The sides are still under the gun if they want to have regular season basketball on November 1st. After a summer of shaking my head, shaking my fist and rolling my eyes every time I heard the word lockout, cautious optimism is a welcome respite. We just might have basketball after all.