By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 20, 2011; 12:15 AM
LOS ANGELES - NBA Commissioner David Stern said the goal of the owners is not to lock out the players, but rather to build a "sustainable business model" that allows every team to compete for a championship.
Stern gave his annual state of the league address and spelled out the possibility of the NBA and National Basketball Players Association reaching a compromise before the collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30.
When asked to compare the situation to 1998, when the league was forced to lock out its players until both sides settled for a shortened, 50-game schedule, Stern said: "Probably, I'd say we had a huge gap back then and we have a huge gap now. But you work hard to close it. And I think we have a capacity to do it."
The owners and players met in Beverly Hills on Friday and Stern said they made some progress, but nothing tangible. "I think it's fair to say that we and the players each made proposals to the other. We have each expressed to the other our dissatisfaction with each other's proposals. In a very positive vein, we each agreed, the union and the teams agreed that everything was available to be discussed."
Owners opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement and are pushing for a hard salary cap. They would also want players to give back a huge chunk of the league's revenues, with the league estimating $300 million annual losses.
Stern mentioned that contraction is "not currently on the table" but that the teams are looking for ways to fix the current economic structure.
"Our goals, as we state them, are relatively simple. We want a sustainable business model that enables 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship and that fairly compensates our union members who are currently the best-paid members in the world," Stern said. "And, after the agreement that we hope to consummate, they will be remain the best-paid union members in the world, in a league that is more competitive and hopefully profitable."
With much of the league's marquee talent limited to a few select cities, and with Carmelo Anthony currently trying to push for a trade to the New York metro area, Stern said "it wouldn't surprise me if in the course of negotiations, the franchise player designation becomes an item of discussion.
"I think it would be a good thing if more teams could compete," Stern continued. "We are very focused through revenue sharing and this deal, this agreement that we are trying to get, on having small markets with the capacity to compete in this league, and succeed in this league."
The league purchased the New Orleans Hornets in December in hopes of finding a buyer who would keep the franchise in the city. Stern said he was confident about the future of the Hornets in New Orleans. He added that the league has no plans of expansion "at this time or frankly in the foreseeable future."
More Anthony rumors
A spokeswoman for New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov released an update Saturday saying the Russian billionaire had not met with Anthony and has no plans to meet with the Denver Nuggets star during All-Star Weekend, the Associated Press reported.
The announcement by Ellen Pinchuk casts doubt on whether the Nets will make a deal for Anthony with Thursday's NBA trade deadline fast approaching.