NEW YORK (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday he is hopeful that a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players can get done by the end of this week, though he stopped short of predicting that a deal would actually get struck.
“I think everyone understands what’s at stake,” Silver said.
The league and the National Basketball Players Association face a midnight Friday deadline for either side to decide that they will opt out of the deal and end the current CBA on June 30. That opt-out deadline already has been extended twice, and Silver said the NBA’s current plan is to exercise that option if there is no deal by Friday night.
“I certainly can foresee one getting done and I hope we do get one done,” Silver said at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the league’s Board of Governors. “It’s just because, honestly, I’m only one side of the negotiation, it’s difficult for me to place odds on whether or not that’s going to happen.”
NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said the players do not intend to opt out if Friday’s deadline passes without a deal.
“The March 31st deadline is an important benchmark, and we are doing everything in our power to reach an agreement with the league,” Tremaglio said. “If we don’t have a deal and the league decides to opt out, it will be disappointing considering all the work both sides have put into the negotiations, and the fair nature of our requests. As far as our fans are concerned, it will be business as usual. Games will continue uninterrupted.”
Both sides have said throughout this process — and in past labor talks — that they do not intend to negotiate or discuss specifics publicly.
The sides have been talking about a new CBA for more than a year, and Silver said he expected negotiations to resume Wednesday night. And if Friday passes without a deal, it wouldn’t be dire immediately because the sides still will have three months to get something done before the current CBA expires.
The opt-outs were put in place to avoid the drama of having talks go right up until the end of a deal, which would increase the odds of a work stoppage.
“Still a lot to go in the next few days. There’s just something about collective bargaining where deadlines are necessary and seemingly sides tend to hold their best positions until the very end,” Silver said. “So, my sense is this will go down to the very end.”
The league has made clear that it wants some changes to the current CBA and has been in discussions with the union on matters such as an upper spending limit, returning to a plan where players can jump to the draft directly from high school and enacting a minimum number of games played in order to be qualified for season-ending awards.
“Every issue seemingly seems related to every other issue,” Silver said. “If you line up these 10 issues, you sort of go 80% of the way there on each issue and everybody’s holding their last move to say: ‘Well, OK, maybe I’m willing to do that, but I’m going wait to see what you’re going to do on those three issues. And if you make those moves on those three issues, then I’ll feel a little bit more comfortable.’ I mean, people are constantly trading things.”
The current CBA, which took effect July 1, 2017, came with a mutual option for either the NBA or the NBPA to opt out after six seasons — June 30 of this year.
The sides originally had a Dec. 15 deadline to announce an intention to exercise the opt-out, then pushed it back to Feb. 8, then to Friday.
A lockout would be damaging on many levels — well beyond the obvious part of how a league that is coming off a season of record revenue (it topped $10 billion for the first time last season and basketball-related income reached $8.9 billion, another record) would see that momentum interrupted. It could also interfere with the makeup of teams for this summer’s World Cup in the Philippines, with NBA players expected to fill the U.S. and other rosters (and three NBA coaches set to be part of the U.S. coaching staff).
It could also disrupt plans for an NBA Summer League in Las Vegas this July that figures to feature presumed No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama in what would be a global spectacle, as the French phenom begins his NBA career.
“I think for both sides in various categories we acknowledge we’ve come closer together,” Silver said. “There still is a gap between where we feel we need to be in order to get a deal done. I’d say throughout the discussions have had a very positive tenor and continued the strong sense of partnership that we have with our players and the players association.”