Owners want a significant reduction in the players' guarantee of basketball-related income, which was 57 percent in the previous deal. Players proposed lowering it to 54.3 percent before the lockout began July 1, though Hunter indicated this summer they were prepared to go lower if owners would agree to leave the cap system untouched. Union officials have said the league's proposals would have them in the mid-40s.
Each percentage point equates to at least $30 million. Players totaled $2.1 billion in salaries and benefits players earned this season.
"We just haven't been able to get to a space, at least the formal proposals that have been on the table, get us to place where we can agree on a deal at this point," Fisher said. "And so economically, we've tried to kind of leave that one floating and deal with some system issues and see what we can carve out there, but we're working at it."
Hunter has said players have instructed union leadership that they would rather sit out than accept a bad deal. But Stern has warned that offers will only get worse once games are missed, which he seemed to be alluding to Wednesday when he said without progress in the upcoming talks "then it won't be a question of just starting the season on time, it will be a lot at risk because of the absence of progress."
The NBA later denied an ESPN.com report that he planned to threaten players with cancellation of the entire season without progress by the end of the weekend.
With the two huge items still to tackle and numerous smaller ones remaining untouched, it won't come easily — and there's a chance it doesn't come at all.
"There's not necessarily a win-lose scenario to get our season started on time," Fisher said. "We certainly have to be in a place where both sides feel that it's a fair deal to be sustained and we'll see if we can do that sooner rather than later."
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