Silver says 'tremendous progress' on new labor deal

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New York (AFP)

NBA team owners and the players union have made "tremendous progress" toward a new collective bargaining agreement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Friday, with rich new television deals helping talks.

Former Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan being involved as owner of the Charlotte Hornets has helped build trust between owners and players, either of whom could opt out of their current deal December 15 and potentially set up the first league shutdown since 2011 come next July.

"We've made tremendous progress," Silver said. "We're not done-done as bargainers in terms of ultimately having a completed collective bargaining agreement. But we're on our way toward getting an extension done of this collective bargaining agreement... We're not quite there yet. But I continue to be optimistic."

The salary cap jumped beyond $90 million thanks to huge revenue boosts from new TV contracts compared to less than $60 million when the NBA ended an eight-month stoppage in 2011 and played a 2011-12 season shortened by 16 games per club.

"The fact there's more money to distribute among our players and teams has created an atmosphere that makes it more conducive to continue," Silver said. "There's a sense across the table that we have a system that we both fought hard for in the last round of collective bargaining that for the most part is working pretty well."

It's the first deal that will be signed by Silver as commissioner and new National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts.

Players have appeared at talks, including union president Chris Pual and stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and the league has shared all financial information with the union as they look to extend a deal where revenue is split 49 and 51 percent between owners and players.

"There hasn't been agreement on everything. I think there has been a healthy back and forth, but I think it has begun from a basis of trust," Silver said.

Jordan being on the negotiating committee has helped pave the way to success as it was when he sparked the Bulls to six titles in the 1990s.

"It doesn't mean that if Michael says it, it necessarily means that (players) accept that as the position they should take," Silver said. "But that has really added a special element, to have a superstar player like that owning a team and being part of these discussions.

Silver does not object to moves like former MVP and scoring champion Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors, but Silver worries more about balancing the hopes of 30 clubs instead of the title quest for one.

"I have a different perspective than an individual team that's trying to do everything it can to win championships," Silver said. "My perspective is to build competitive balance among 30 teams."

Silver hopes players will not kneel for the US national anthem as some in the NFL are doing to protest police brutality.

"What we've seen in multiple pre-season games so far is our players standing," Silver said. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

Silver said the league will continue to consider seeding playoff teams regardless of conference but a short term change is unlikely.