Stern pessimistic, rips players after negotiating session

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Anyone out there still feeling optimistic about a full NBA season? Even part of one?

Moments after players union president Derek Fisher was diplomatic in saying Monday’s first high level meeting between the owners and players in a month was not productive, David Stern spoke and made Edgar Allen Poe sound like Mary Poppins.

Of course, he laid that at the feet of the players.

“I don’t feel optimistic about the players’ willingness to engage in a serious way,” Stern said.

While the players heels are dug in for sure, the owners have come in with proposals that will dramatically shift the economic landscape of the NBA — them getting a majority of all “basketball related income” (the players currently get 57 percent), a hard salary cap, shorter contracts that are not guaranteed or have affordable buyouts.

Both sides accused the other of not coming off their position that forced the lockout in the first place. Which is pretty much what we all expected, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing to hear. These are some more quotes from Stern, via Ken Berger at CBS Sports.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re in the same place as we were 30 days ago,” Stern said. “And we agreed we’d be in touch to schedule some additional meetings.”

Asked why that would be necessary, given the lack of progress, Stern said, “There’s always a reason for more meetings because that’s the only way you’ll ultimately get to a deal, at the negotiating table. You never know, but right now we haven’t seen any movement.”

The two sides did talk about scheduling two or three days of consecutive meetings later this month. Which is nice, but moot if neither side will compromise.

Next month we will get a better picture for how bad things really are. By then the union should have some kind of ruling on their complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, saying the owners are not negotiating in good faith. If the board agrees with the players, it can go to the courts to end the lockout and the players would gain real negotiating leverage.

Also, by the end of September games will start having to be cancelled if a deal isn’t reached. That is the ultimate pressure on both sides to reach a deal.

But whether it is enough to really move either side off their current positions remains to be seen.