MIAMI Commissioner David Stern felt there was progress. Union executive director Billy Hunter said he is hopeful.
So a month before a potential lockout, there was some reason for optimism about the NBAs labor situation.
Representatives of the leagues owners and players met for about four hours Wednesday and will get together twice next week in Dallas as they try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires June 30.
Im hopeful, and we know that the pressures building, and if anythings going to happen, its got to happen between now and (June) 30, Hunter said. And so were really going to make every effort to see if we can reach a deal.
Hunter previously said he was 99 percent sure of a work stoppage, but he said there was a productive exchange of ideas in Wednesdays session.
I think we now know each other, and the question is what kind of compromise the sides are prepared to make, Stern said. It may not be enough on either side, but were going to give it a shot.
Hunter wouldnt say if the owners showed any willingness to move off their desire for a hard salary cap, which the players have called a nonstarter. Thats only one of numerous changes owners want to the leagues salary structure, and the union has resisted most of them, saying the current system largely has worked.
I guess on paper were quite far apart. The question is whether we may be closer than we say we are, or we can get closer than we say we are, Stern said.
The Miami Heats hopes of a long championship reign could depend on it.
If owners were to get everything they want either through avoiding or after enduring a lockout it could come at the expense of teams like the Heat, who have significant money committed to a few top players.
A hard cap would limit their ability to fill out a roster around LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh or in an extreme case, even force them to trade one of their Big Three.
Thats nothing I want to focus on mentally at this time of the year, Wade said. Ill have more comments on that when the season is over.
The current salary cap system allows for certain exceptions that permit teams to exceed it, such as to re-sign their own free agents. They wouldnt have that luxury under a hard cap system, potentially forcing teams to make some difficult decisions to stay below the threshold.
The leagues initial proposal called for an immediate hard cap, though its subsequent proposal backed off implementing that next season and instead phasing it in over three seasons. Though not known where the number would fall, it likely would be be well below this seasons $58 million.
James, Wade and Bosh all are scheduled to earn more than $20 million in 2014-15, when the Heat would have only six players under contract at about $71 million though the leagues proposals also call for salaries to be rolled back to conform to the requirements of a new CBA.
Stern couldnt guarantee the Heat would be able to stay together during his annual finals news conference Tuesday, saying thats part of the negotiation, though later he said he hoped that would be the case.
The Heat have been good for NBA business, with their Game 1 victory over Dallas earning the highest TV ratings for a series opener since 2004. Both sides realize how damaging a work stoppage immediately after their first season would be, so players executive Keyon Dooling of the Milwaukee Bucks said the fact there was good dialogue Wednesday means youve got a chance.
But at the same time, were far away, and we realize that, and weve got to try to find some middle ground so we can find balance, Dooling said.