The National Basketball Association management and players association met for seven hours in New York yesterday and are scheduled to resume negotiations today, creating speculation that they are close to a settlement in their 10-month long efforts at reaching a collective bargaining agreement.
Both sides have agreed to make no public statements as to how yesterday's meeting went, but an NBA source said that the fact that they met for so long and will meet again "indicates that something is happening." The players had set a strike date of April 2.
Another source said the stumbling block is still when to implement the owners' proposed guaranteed-compensation plan. The plan would put a ceiling on team salaries and give the players a percentage of the gross revenues. The owners want to implement it immediately, but the players say they won't agree to such a plan until after the 1986-87 season when their current free-agent agreement expires.
Speculation last night was that the two sides were close to compromising by going to the plan in two years, after a number of the league's top players soon to become free agents will have signed new contracts. Included among those players are Larry Bird and Kevin McHale of the Boston Celtics, Kelly Tripucka of the Detroit Pistons and Sidney Moncrief of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yesterday's meeting was the longest of four meetings since the players set the strike deadline. The first meeting, March 1, lasted only 24 minutes, but the two sides met for five hours March 8. The negotiators met again last Wednesday for five hours.
The league's Board of Governors met in Los Angeles March 11 and voted unanimously to reject any contract that they said "would not help solve the league's financial problems," and directed its labor relations committee to remain firm in negotiations with the players association.
Players Association President Bob Lanier of the Milwaukee Bucks was snowed in and was unable to attend yesterday's meeting, but Vice President Maurice Lucas of the Phoenix Suns was present along with general counsel Larry Fleisher and assistant counsel Charles Grantham.
The NBA was represented by Executive Vice President David Stern, general counsel Russ Granik, assistant counsel Gary Bettman, outside counsel and three owners, Lawrence Weinberg of the Portland Trail Blazers, Alan Cohen of the New Jersey Nets and John Krumpe of the New York Knicks.
The league has been without a collective bargaining agreement since the old one expired June 1.