|NBA owners and players will resume their negotiations with the mediator on Wednesday [GALLO/GETTY]|
NBA owners and locked-out players met with a federal mediator for more than 16 hours before the longest contract negotiating session of the bitter money dispute ended on Wednesday with no public comments.
The first two weeks of the 2011-2012 NBA season have already been wiped out and NBA commissioner David Stern said that more games could be lost if the two sides, widely split on how to divide revenues, could not make progress on Tuesday.
The marathon session was the longest since the lockout began on July 1 and the first to feature US mediator George Cohen, who entered a similar collective bargaining dispute earlier this year with American football owners and players.
Cohen asked both sides to refrain from making comments to the media and those involved in the Manhattan talks complied when the session broke up just after 2:00 am on Wednesday, the 111th day of the shutdown.
“We have a gag order,” NBA union executive director Billy Hunter said.
Whether any movement was made toward a new deal was unknown but talks were set to resume later on Wednesday morning even as NBA owners were set to begin two days of meetings later in the day.
“The mediator asked both sides to refrain from making public comments,” an NBA spokesman said.
NBA commissioner David Stern had hinted that games as far off as Christmas might be at risk if there was no progress toward a new deal on Tuesday, although players said they saw that comment as a negotiating ploy.
NBA owners and players are stalemated in the first shutdown of the league since the 1998-99 season was reduced from 82 to 50 games per club over similar issues.
Billionaire club owners and multi-millionaire NBA players each want about 53 percent of revenues, which would represent a four-percent cut from about $2.17 billion that players divided last year from the contract that expired July 1.
Owners want to exclude more income from the revenues that must be shared with players and they want a larger chunk of the shared money as well, plus a salary cap without the numerous exceptions that were in the prior contract.
Players have already agreed to cuts they say would provide the league $1.3 billion over six years and do not want a salary cap.
Some players have signed with overseas clubs to be certain of not losing a full year of their careers to the lockout.
Cohen’s background also includes serving as a lawyer for Major League Baseball’s players union in 1995 when a court injunction against club owners in 1995 ended a 7 1/2-month dispute, one that wiped out the 1994 World Series.