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Curry optimistic that sides close to tentative proposal
With a July 1 NBA lockout date looming, the president of the NBA Players' Association said Friday he's hopeful that owners and players will have a framework for a new six-year collective bargaining agreement in place by the weekend.
With talks resuming at an undisclosed location in New York, Michael Curry told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher that he is optimistic that the sides might reach a tentative proposal that each side could present to its constituents next week for approval.
Curry did not provide details on what the framework would include, but he described the tenor of the talks as "good."
"Having been through this before, I was optimistic that we could get a deal done in time," said Curry, who was part of the negotiations that resulted in the last collective bargaining deal in 1999, which followed a lockout.
The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire June 30, after which, a lockout would begin.
Curry told Bucher that he knew "it would simply take getting to the 11th hour. We're now at the 11th hour."
According to Curry, the players attending Friday's meeting included himself, Antonio Davis and Pat Garrity. Curry said the team executives at the meeting were Wyc Grousbeck, managing partner of the Boston Celtics; Steve Mills, president and CEO of MSG Sports (representing the New York Knicks); Les Alexander, owner of the Houston Rockets; and Lewis Katz, owner of the New Jersey Nets.
Friday's meeting, which included NBA commissioner David Stern and players' association director Billy Hunter, was the first since June 1, when the sides met for 2½ hours at the union's offices in New York.
"We made significant progress today and tonight," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said in a statement. "We will convene again in small groups over the course of the weekend and will reconvene the larger group on Tuesday morning."
The past two weeks have been marked by public posturing from both sides, with the latest salvo coming Wednesday when Hunter traveled to the NBA Finals in Detroit to explain his side of the story as to why talks have been stalled.
Hunter said he would call Stern before the current labor agreement expires, and that call apparently was made Thursday. The sides have engaged in on-and-off talks throughout the late winter and spring.
On Wednesday, Hunter said he surmised from Stern's public comments last Sunday that only three issues remain in dispute -- an age limit for rookies, a tougher drug-testing program and the maximum length of long-term contracts, but deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Hunter's assumption was incorrect.
Owners are known to be seeking several other changes to current rules, including a new luxury tax (dubbed a "supertax") for the highest spending teams, reductions in the size of annual salary increases in long-term contracts, a shortened rookie wage scale and adjustments to the so-called trigger percentages that activate the escrow and luxury taxes designed to curtail spending on player salaries.
Stern did not reference those items when he addressed the media before Game 2 of the Finals, though he did go into detail about where the owners stand on the other items. He said the league wants the minimum age raised to 19, the maximum contract length reduced from seven years to six, and an anti-drug agreement that would call for veterans to be tested year-round. Currently, veterans are tested only once per year, during training camp.
Information from ESPN.com senior writer Marc Stein and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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