NEW YORK — Joined by superstars Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, player representatives from NBA teams are meeting Monday to discuss the league's proposal for a new labor deal.
If the player reps endorse it, it would go to a vote of all players. If approved by players and then ratified by owners, the lockout would end, and a 72-game season would start Dec. 15.
But if the union leadership rejects the offer, the league is prepared to offer a harsher proposal — one players wouldn't accept, possibly triggering a lengthy legal battle and certainly jeopardizing the 2011-12 season.
Commissioner David Stern has urged players to take the deal on the table, saying it's the best the NBA can offer and warned that decertification is not a winning strategy.
The current proposal calls for a 50-50 division of basketball-related income. Players are still unhappy with what they believe are too many restrictions for big-spending teams that would limit their free agent options, but Stern said the proposal is far better for players than the one player reps said they would reject last week.
Waiting is a proposal that calls for a 53-47 split of BRI in the owners' favor, a flex cap with a hard ceiling and rollbacks for current salaries.
Players could seek further tweaks to the current proposal before putting it to a vote, but Stern repeatedly has said the league is through negotiating.
"I want to answer this diplomatically. The next time we meet to discuss anything, we'll be discussing the 47 percent proposal," he told The Associated Press on Saturday. "This is it. We've been negotiating this for 2½ years. The owners authorized a revised proposal, and they said if it's not acceptable and they want to keep negotiating, we present them with a 47 percent, flex cap proposal. They know it."
Players also could vote to disband the union. Executive director Billy Hunter said last week he was aware that perhaps 200 players had signed a petition supporting it. But an antitrust lawsuit against the league would take months, so the best shot to play this season comes this week.
Stern reminded players and fans of that Sunday during an internet blitz. He and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver took questions on Twitter, and the league posted a memo on its website that Stern sent to players with a breakdown of various deal points. He urged players to "study our proposal carefully, and to accept it as a fair compromise of the issues between us."
The league has withdrawn its demands for a hard salary cap, salary rollbacks and non-guaranteed contracts during the negotiations. But players still fear some of the restrictions on teams over the luxury tax would act as a hard cap, which they vehemently oppose.
Stern has blamed agents for the misinformation about the proposal that has spread since Thursday. So players were eager to get in the room with Hunter and union president Derek Fisher and get the full details themselves. Chris Duhon, Orlando's player rep, wrote on his Twitter feed that the Magic would accept the deal.
"The main thing is not going in with any preconceived notions," Minnesota Timberwolves rep Anthony Tolliver said. "We need to understand the ins and outs of the deal. It's just like last week, where we didn't understand the full extent of the deal until we got in the room face-to-face and talked it through."
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
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