Road map to NBA labor peace

Three months ago, during All-Star weekend in Denver, NBA commissioner David Stern and National Basketball Players Association president Billy Hunter expressed optimism that a deal would be reached on a new collective bargaining agreement before the end of the season.

Last week, sparked in part by an ESPN Insider report detailing the dissatisfaction of a number of player agents with the owners' offer, the NBA announced the owners had canceled all further talks with the players. With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire on June 30, deputy commissioner Russ Granik used the word "alarming" to describe the status of relations between the two sides.

However, with word from New York that owners and players have resumed talks, can a deal be struck in time to avoid a lockout?

The current economic system is not broken. Stern acknowledges that a well-managed team can be both profitable and competitive in the NBA, and he has used words like "tweaks" and "non-economic" to characterize the issues that need to be resolved. For his part, Hunter, who fought the 1998 agreement vigorously, now wants to protect it.

So the heated rhetoric we have heard from both Stern and Hunter in the past week or so is at odds with the facts of the situation. Each side knows a deal is within reach and that a lockout would be disastrous, as it has been for the NHL.

Since the news of labor unrest broke last week, Insider has spoken with numerous sources directly involved in the talks to ascertain how a lockout could be averted. Voices from all sides – NBA brass, NBPA officials, agents and even a couple of players – have weighed in.

If both parties really want labor peace, this might be the road map that gets them there: