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The direction of a 133-day NBA lockout characterized by inflated rhetoric and soft deadlines became much clearer late Thursday night.
Representatives for league owners offered players a revised collective bargaining agreement (CBA) proposal, which centers around a 72-game regular season that would start Dec. 15.
The offer was delivered toward the end of an 11-hour meeting in New York. It was the highlight of a two-day bargaining session that lasted 23 hours, began with increased momentum and optimism, and saw the sides come closer than ever to ending a work stoppage that started July 1.
If the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) accepts the deal, the 2011-12 schedule will be compressed, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said, and the playoffs and Finals will start a week later than normal.
Details of the revised CBA were not revealed by the league or the union during post-meeting news conferences. However, it is believed to center around a 50-50 split of basketball-related income and include some minor system concessions owners hope will address players' concerns about free agency.
The Jazz are scheduled to play Dec. 16 at Denver. Off days could be erased and some games might be moved around in the 2011-12 NBA calendar. But if the early portion of Utah's schedule holds, a road contest against the Nuggets could serve as the Jazz's season-opener and the start of a five-game, seven-day road trip.
No further meetings are scheduled between sides. NBA commissioner David Stern acknowledged the league's proposal is a last, best offer to end a bitter lockout that started July 1.
"We have made our revised proposal, and we're not planning to make another one," Stern said.
NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said the union does not have a deadline to take the deal. However, he expects player representatives for all 30 teams to convene in New York by next Tuesday to determine whether to accept the offer.
Jazz guard Raja Bell serves as Utah's player representative.
Hunter conceded that the owners' revised offer is not "the greatest proposal in the world."
Yet he and NBPA president Derek Fisher feel obligated to bring the deal back to players, and they asked for more time than normal to evaluate their options.
"We'd like to continue to negotiate and get a deal, but right now is not that time," Fisher said.
Yahoo! Sports reported after Thursday's news conferences that agents have 200-plus player signatures that could be used to initiate union decertification. The process might begin as early as Friday.
If the NBPA declines the deal, Stern said the league will pull it from the table and put forth a much stricter "reset" proposal, highlighted by a 53-47 BRI split that favors owners and a flexible salary cap the union has long equated to a hard cap.
"I would not presume to project or predict what the union will do. … My hope is events of next week will lead us ... to a 72-game schedule starting on Dec. 15," Stern said.
He added: "There is really nothing left to negotiate about."
Representatives for league owners offered players a revised collective bargaining agreement proposal late Thursday night, which centers around a 72-game regular season that would start Dec. 15. If the union accepts the deal, the 2011-12 schedule will be compressed, and the playoffs and Finals will start a week later than normal.