UPDATE 9:01 pm: The meeting date has been changed to Tuesday now and we know the mediator will be George Cohen.
That wold be the same Cohen who was the mediator for the NFL in their dispute. He made no progress there — they met before their eventual lockout — and some around those talks saw Cohen as ineffectual. Thing is, a mediator cannot force someone to make a deal who doesn’t want to, and the NFL was not in a deal-making place at that moment. Nobody short of Tony Soprano could have forced them into a deal at that time.
Here is Cohen’s official statement:
For a number of months I have participated in separate, informal, off-the-record discussions with the principals representing the NBA and the NBPA concerning the status of their collective bargaining negotiations.
It is evident that the ongoing dispute will result in a serious impact, not only upon the parties directly involved, but also, of major concern, on interstate commerce–i.e., the employers and working men and women who provide services related to the basketball games, and, more generally, on the economy of every city in which those games are scheduled to be played.
In these circumstances, the Agency has invited, and the parties have agreed, to convene further negotiations under my auspices.
5:21 pm: It’s time for a little outside help.
The NBA owners and players will meet next Monday with a federal mediator, union chief Billy Hunter told WFAN radio in New York Wednesday afternoon, according to Al Iannazzone of the Bergin Record and other sources.
It will be the first meeting between the two sides since talks broke off Monday, which is when David Stern announced the cancelation of the first two weeks of the season. Both sides left 13 hours of negotiations over the weekend saying there was a “gulf” between their positions.
It’s good news that they are meeting again. A federal mediator can’t make the sides agree if they are not willing to compromise — remember the NFL owners and union went through this before they even had an official lockout, it did no good. But if the two sides really do want to find a deal this could push the process along.
No pressure, Mr. Federal Mediator, but you could be getting a call from the president to see how things are going.
Bottom line, the two sides are talking again a week after talks broke down. That in and of itself has to be seen as a victory.