Representatives for NBA players and owners will meet Thursday, hours before the collective bargaining agreement expires, and Commissioner David Stern says that's still enough time for a deal.
Owners did not vote to authorize a lockout during their meeting Tuesday, but have given the labour relations committee the go-ahead to do whatever is necessary.
If a deal is not reached, owners could lock out the players when the CBA expires at the end of the day, though both sides have said negotiating could extend past the deadline if progress is being made.
"Nothing in this world is absolute," Stern said.
Yet Stern wouldn't discuss the possibility of an extension.
"We're not talking about likelihoods, we're looking forward to Thursday's meeting. That will be great," he said.
Though a large group of players attended the last meeting, Thursday's session is expected to be only a small group from both sides. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said the league didn't know if the players would make another proposal after they declined to present one Friday.
Stern said it was the players' association's choice to wait until the last day before meeting again.
"We were prepared to go over the weekend, they said they knew we were meeting on Tuesday, can we meet Wednesday or Thursday? We said fine, we can meet either or both, and they said Thursday. We said great," Stern said.
Owners were updated on the status of the CBA negotiations, as well as plans for expanded revenue sharing among teams, during their meeting. Stern said there are few firm details about the latter — which has frustrated the union — because it can't be completed until a new deal with the players is done.
"It's hard," Stern said. "We discussed principles, ideas and the like, but it's hard to complete one without the other."
Failure to reach a deal by the deadline could trigger the league's first work stoppage since the 1998-99 season was reduced to 50 games. The sides remain far apart on financial issues and the players are opposed to owners' attempts to institute a new salary cap system.
"Well, I sure would like to see us make a deal, and not making a deal should give everybody apprehension," Stern said, "because the way to continue our growth is to come up with a deal that makes our union, that keeps our union as the highest-priced union in the world, the highest-paid union in the world, gives all of our teams the opportunity to make a profit and makes us a more competitive league.
"It sounds like the tripod for a win-win-win, and we'll have to see whether that's a possibility when we meet again with the players on Thursday."