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Union chief says NBA players unified

Sept. 15, 2011 at 9:19 PM   |   Comments

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- NBA Players Association President Derek Fisher said Thursday he believed the union would put up a solid front during future negotiations with league owners.

A letter from Fisher to the players that was leaked Thursday indicated he did not think the owners were less unified.

Fisher gathered Thursday with several players to discuss the ongoing labor talks and he appeared at a news conference in advance of the meeting.

"At the end of the day, we'll have to negotiate a deal," Fisher said as he stood in front of a group of players. "And the only way we'll get a deal done that's fair is with these guys right here.

"Of course, we'd love to be back to work. We'd love for this lockout to end. But we've prepared ourselves for what it may bring. So if it ends tomorrow or if it ends a year from now, we're together and we're ready to tackle the issues that we'll face."

There had been some optimism expressed during talks between the players and owners this week, but CBS Sports.com reported that two owners -- Dan Gilbert of Cleveland and Robert Sarver of Phoenix -- had developed a hard-line approach to the negotiations that had slowed progress.

The letter Fisher sent to the players indicated he agreed with that report.

"What actually happened in those meetings was discussion, brainstorming and a sharing of options by both sides," the letter said. "The turning point this past Tuesday was not a disagreement between the players and the owners. It was actually a fundamental divide between the owners internally.

"They could not agree with each other on specific points of the deal and therefore it caused conflict within the league and its owners."

While the players were meeting in Las Vegas, the owners held their own gathering in Dallas.

The NBA lockout began July 1. Training camps are scheduled to open Oct. 3 and the opening exhibition games are set for Oct. 9. The first games in the regular season are scheduled for Nov. 1.

Although the league is at odds with its players, the NBA did announce Thursday it had agreed to a five-year collective bargaining agreement with its referees.

The new contract came almost two years after the NBA began the 2009-10 season with replacement officials.

Topics: Derek Fisher
© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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