NEW YORK (AP) - The time for talk in the NBA is over.
David Stern made that clear Thursday, saying the league is done negotiating. The next time he hears from the players' association, he expects an answer: Yes, players will accept the league's latest proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement, or no they won't.
If they do, the NBA will commence with a 72-game season on Dec. 15.
And if no? Then the next time LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the NBA's biggest stars are in uniform, it might be in London during next summer's Olympics.
So the NBA's lengthy labor fight could come to an end this week. Or, the next phase might just be beginning.
Should players reject this deal - and they certainly don't love it - the next one comes with terms they would never accept, likely sending them into the court system to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league after disbanding the union. That's far from an assured victory, but it practically assures there would be no 2011-12 season.
Stern knows which he prefers - and which he thinks the union should accept.
"We both recognize the seriousness of what we're facing," he said. "I think both sides would like to begin the season on Dec. 15th, if that's possible. I think our teams want to start playing. That desire is matched by our players. We've done the best we can to cause that to happen. I think the events of the week and the offer that we presented had the desired impact of causing us both to focus intensely on whether there was a deal here to be done. We very much want to make the deal that's on the table that would get our players into training camp and to begin the 2011-12 season.
"I don't have a crystal ball. I just have the ability to hope that it will come to that and that our players will accept this revised proposal from the NBA."
That's far from guaranteed.
The revised proposal makes some improvements over the one players said was unacceptable after a meeting of team representatives earlier in the week. A person directly involved with the talks told The Associated Press on Friday that there are some within the league - including owners - who "can't believe" players would hesitate to accept it.