"We're not failing and we're not succeeding," said NBA Commissioner David Stern, following a last-minute session that was held against the backdrop of a league-imposed deadline in an attempt to end a bitter 132-day lockout.
He added: "I would not read into this optimism or pessimism. We will just continue to negotiate."
League sources told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday they were cautiously optimistic about the session. One high-ranking source said a deal to end the lockout appeared to be in sight for the first time since the work stoppage began July 1, as the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) appeared to have realized Wednesday's small-group meeting was likely its best chance to end a damaging lockout that has already resulted in missed games and lost revenue.
Yahoo! Sports reported at 6:30 p.m. MT Wednesday "significant progress" had been made.
However, Stern sighed when asked whether any momentum had been created. And the only agreement between the sides made public was that they will continue talking.
That minor movement did have an impact, though. Stern had threatened to retract owners' current offer, which includes a 49-51 band on basketball-related income (BRI) and several system-related issues favoring teams, if a deal was not reached by 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The NBPA called Stern's bluff, saying Tuesday it would not accept the deal, and instead wanted to meet with owners one more time before the deadline.
The ultimatum came and went without repercussions, and another league threat was soon made hollow: Stern's promise to rescind the current offer and replace it with a much stricter deal highlighted by a 53-47 BRI split favoring teams, the rollback of guaranteed contracts and a harder salary cap if an agreement was not reached by the deadline.
Stern amended his ultimatum about 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, saying the league won't follow through with its "reset" offer until talks that started at 11 a.m. Wednesday officially end.
"We've agreed … that we've stopped the clock and will continue to negotiate," Stern said.
Neither side revealed much during post-meeting press conferences. However, Stern and NBPA president Derek Fisher acknowledged that little progress had been made despite increased optimism in the media.
"The fact that we don't have a deal obviously let's you know there's still a lot of work to do on the system," Fisher said.
If the framework of a new CBA is agreed to, it will take the league about a month to get up to full speed and tip off the 2011-12 season.
Five Jazz regular-season and eight preseason games have games have already been canceled, and all NBA contests through November have been erased from the calendar.
The NBPA could soon begin the process of decertification if a deal is not reached, while the league will likely cancel games through the first two weeks of December.
The NBA lockout passed the 2011 NFL lockout Thursday morning in terms of length.
This is only the second time in the NBA's 65-year history games have been canceled due to a work stoppage.