"The current offer on the table from the NBA is one that we cannot accept."
Those words, spoken by union president Derek Fisher after a players meeting in New York on Tuesday, were intended to send a clear message to commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA's 30 owners: Players will not be bullied into accepting what they have deemed an unfair offer.
But what about that offer? Internally, the players have made it clear that if the owners are willing to work with them on the system issues, they would be willing to make concessions when it comes to the split of basketball-related income. But those system issues have proved to be difficult to navigate.
With Stern's Wednesday deadline looming for the union to accept the league's offer or face a harsher proposal, here is a look at where the sides stand on many of the issues, according to multiple players briefed on the proposal:
• The "Super Tax": Both the players and owners have agreed, in part, on a punitive tax for teams that exceed the luxury-tax threshold. For every dollar -- up to $5 million -- that a team goes over the limit, it pays a $1.50 tax. In the previous CBA, it was dollar for dollar. Moreover, the two sides have agreed that the tax will get incrementally larger every $5 million.
• The Larry Bird exception: Both sides have agreed that the Bird exception -- a provision that allows teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents -- will remain the same.
• Length of player contracts: Previously, a team could sign its own free agent for six years and an outside free agent for five. The players have agreed to reduce those numbers to five and four.
• Minimum team salary: The minimum team salary must be 85 percent of the salary cap.
• Amnesty clause: A team may waive one player and not have that player's contract count against the cap. That clause may be used at any time over the life of the collective bargaining agreement.
• Injury exception: In the event of a season-ending injury, a team will be given a one-year, $5 million exception to replace an injured player.
• Restricted free agency: A team will have three days to match offers on restricted free agents. Previously, a team had seven.
• "Stretch" contracts: Teams may waive players and stretch the payments of the guaranteed money over a period two times the remaining years plus one.
• Luxury tax: Two key issues remain in dispute:
A. The NBA has proposed that if a team goes into the luxury tax more than three out of every five years, it will be hit with an extra $1 penalty tax in addition to what it is paying in the super tax.
B. If a team breaks the tax threshold by $1, it forfeits its share of the tax money. Put simply, only non-taxpayers get any money back
The union opposes both provisions for the same reason: It discourages teams from going into the luxury tax.
• Mid-level exception: As the NBA has stated, the two sides have agreed to reduce the mid-level exception from $5.8 million to $5 million. However, the NBA wants any team that uses the mid-level to be limited to three-year deals. If a team is paying the luxury tax, the NBA's proposal calls for that team to lose the full mid-level and be limited to a smaller, $2.5 million exception. The players believe this both hurts the middle class and discourages teams from spending into the luxury tax.
• Qualifying offers: Players want more lucrative offers. Ownership wants them to stay the same.
• Escrow: The NBA is seeking escrow protection -- believed to be 10 percent -- which would, in essence, guarantee the league hits its target BRI number. Players have offered to increase the escrow to a band of 8-10 percent.
• Sign-and-trades: The NBA proposal prohibits taxpaying teams from executing sign-and-trades. The players are against that.
• Trade exceptions: The players want them increased. The NBA wants them to stay the same.
• Rookie contracts: While the rookie wage scale would stay the same, the union has pushed for incentivizing contracts to give elite rookies the opportunity to make more money quicker.
• Annual raises: Under the terms of the last CBA, players with Bird rights were entitled to 10.5 percent raises and everyone else could receive 8.5 percent. The union has offered to reduce those raises to 7.5 percent/6.5 percent while the NBA's offer was 5.5 percent/3 percent.
• Salary-cap holds: The union wants them lower. The NBA wants them to stay the same.