The National Basketball Association management and players association resumed contract negotiations Sunday with a three-hour meeting in New York and have scheduled another session for today at an unspecified New York site.
The players have set an April 2 strike deadline.
There was speculation early last week that the two sides were close to an agreement, but the players committee walked out of a Friday meeting after only 20 minutes when Larry Fleisher, general counsel for the players association, said the owners "went back on what had been said before."
Fleisher said yesterday that he was once again "optimistic. I'm just hoping that by talking we'll get something done by Saturday."
If no collective bargaining agreement is reached, a strike is scheduled to start after Saturday's games.
Commissioner Larry O'Brien, who attended the Sunday meeting and is expected to be present again today, said both sides "have agreed to refrain from public comment on the progress of the talks or the issues involved."
A source close to the negotiations said yesterday that both sides have agreed that averting a strike is the most important thing "and would be in the best interest of everyone." He added that a settlement before Saturday "is possible and even likely, if everyone is reasonable."
Joining O'Brien at Sunday's meeting, in addition to the league's general counsel, were two owners, Jack Krumpe of the New York Knicks and Alan Cohen of the New Jersey Nets.
In addition to Fleisher and his staff, players Junior Bridgeman and Bob Lanier of the Milwaukee Bucks were present.
Greg Ballard, the Bullets' player representative, said his team doesn't want to strike, "but we will vote to if it comes to that. None of us wants to strike, but there are things we must protect."
Coach Gene Shue said he isn't thinking about the possible strike. "I obviously don't want one, but if it happens, I have no control, so . . . "
Boston Celtics Coach Bill Fitch was more adamant. "I don't care what side you're on," he told United Press International, "if anyone just thinks of the consequences they'd realize in a second that a strike would be the height of stupidity. Nobody could possibly gain a blessed thing, even in the long run."
The parties have apparently agreed on a guaranteed compensation plan that would set a cap and a minimum on team payrolls and guarantee the players a fixed percentage of the league's gross revenues. The amounts of the cap and minimum and the percentage are the issues, as well as the question of free agency.