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NBA talks done for day, will pick back up on Thursday

NEW YORK (AP) -- After another long day of negotiations, NBA players and owners left with nothing more than plans for another meeting.

That's not what Commissioner David Stern had in mind, but it's better than the cancellations that could have come if talks had fallen through.

Both sides seemed to have plenty to say. An eight-hour meeting Wednesday brought the talk total to 24 hours over two days, and federal mediator George Cohen said bargaining would resume Thursday afternoon.

"Everyone is extremely focused on the core issues, the difficult issues that confront them," Cohen said.

Talks broke for the night so owners could have separate meetings at another hotel. Stern left negotiations after seven hours to join the owners for a presentation on revenue sharing.

The sides have been divided over two main issues - the division of revenues and the structure of the salary cap system.

League officials originally said they wouldn't be available for talks Wednesday or Thursday because of board meetings. Stern wanted to bring a deal to them, at one point saying that if an agreement wasn't reached by Tuesday, Christmas games could be canceled.

Instead, the talks continue.

Owners will meet with players again Thursday after their board meeting, the first time during the 111-day lockout they will have bargained for three consecutive days.

"The discussions have been direct and constructive, and as far as we are concerned, we are here to continue to help assist the parties to endeavor to reach an agreement," Cohen said.

Cohen said players and owners met in a variety of settings during mediation, sometimes in subcommittees, other times in groups as large as 40 people.

Flanked by deputy mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, Cohen made his statement to reporters and did not take questions. Neither side commented, honoring Cohen's request that the sides keep mum.

Without a deal this week, Stern might have to decide when a next round of cancellations would be necessary. The season was supposed to begin Nov. 1, but all games through Nov. 14 -- 100 in total -- have been scrapped, costing players about $170 million in salaries.

Talks resumed Wednesday morning, just eight hours after a marathon 16-hour session.

And they continued even after Stern left with Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, the planning committee chairman, and NBA president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin.

Stern has said owners will have an expanded revenue sharing package among teams once the collective bargaining agreement has been completed. The union has pushed for it to be part of the CBA discussions, believing better sharing among teams would help owners address what they said was $300 million in losses last season. But Stern said recently he is confident players would approve the owners' new system.

Players believe owners' attempts to make the luxury tax more punitive and limit the use of spending exceptions will effectively create a hard salary cap, which they say they will refuse to accept. Also, each side has formally proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income after players were guaranteed 57 percent under the previous CBA.

They talked about a 50-50 split, but players rejected it and the league has said it won't go beyond that number.

Unable to make any real headway in recent weeks on either item, both sides welcomed the presence of Cohen, who also spent 16 days trying to resolve the NFL's labor dispute in February and March.

Their first day together produced a bargaining session that was more than twice as long as any previous one since owners locked out players when the old CBA expired June 30.

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