- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - NBA owners and players are talking for a third straight day, with Commissioner David Stern vowing they will take "one heck of a shot" at ending the lockout.

After two days of making some progress on salary cap issues, they planned to turn their attention back to the revenue split. Talks broke down last week over that issue, and they haven’t attempted to deal with it since.

Both sides pointed toward Friday as the day they hoped to close the gap on the finances. Owners are insistent on a 50-50 split of revenues, while players last formally proposed they get 52.5 percent, leaving them about $100 million apart annually. Players were guaranteed 57 percent in the previous collective bargaining agreement.

Though the first two weeks already have been canceled, union executive director Billy Hunter has said he believes a full 82-game schedule is still possible with a deal this weekend.

"There are no guarantees that we’ll get it done, but we’re going to give it one heck of a shot tomorrow," Stern said Thursday night. "I think that Billy and the union’s negotiators feel the same way. I know that ours do."

The sides met for 7 1/2 hours Thursday following a 15-hour marathon the previous day. Though no specifics have been offered, they both said there had been some compromise on system issues.

That has created optimism that the lockout could be nearing an end, though that was believed possible a couple of times earlier this month only to be followed by a setback.

"I think we’re within reach and within striking distance of getting a deal," Hunter said. "It’s just a question of how receptive the NBA is and whether or not they want to do a deal."

The small groups that were meeting grew a bit Friday. Union vice presidents Chris Paul _ wearing a Yankees cap for his trip to New York _ and Theo Ratliff joined the talks, and economist Kevin Murphy returned after he was unavailable Thursday. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stayed for the session after taking part Thursday.

Without a deal, Stern must decide whether to add more cancellations to the two weeks that have already been lost.

A full season might be difficult even with a deal this week. It takes roughly 30 days from agreement to games being played, so it’s uncertain if there’s still time for any basketball in November even before examining arena availability. But 82 games would be a boost for the players, meaning they wouldn’t miss the paycheck that seemed lost when the first two weeks were scrapped.

It was widely expected Stern would announce further cancellations this week after talks broke down a week ago. Instead, the sides were in communication the next day, staffs met Monday, and they were back at the bargaining table Wednesday, acting on Hunter’s recommendation to "park" the revenue split and focus first on the system issues.

Players want a system that looks a lot like the old one, where teams have the ability to exceed the salary cap and where contracts and their raises are guaranteed. Owners are seeking changes that they believe would create more competitive balance by removing the big market teams’ ability to spend freely beyond the cap.

They have attempted to do that by increasing the penalties teams would have to pay for exceeding the tax level. Players argue the taxes are too punitive and would scare teams from spending, thereby creating a hard cap.

"Our position hasn’t changed much," union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said. "We’re just trying to make sure that players have an opportunity to have a market for themselves and for their services, the same way we’re trying to meet the league and our teams on all 30 teams being competitive."

Players have said the issues of the system and split are largely tied together, though Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver have said they believe they are separate.

The key question is whether owners will insist on having both _ and it sounds like they might.

"We need to resolve both issues and both issues are critical," Silver said. "One is not dependent on the other."

Both issues have derailed talks previously, with the split emerging as the bigger hurdle last week. Now the sides have arrived at what might be the toughest part, because it always seemed these talks would come back to money.

"We’re working at it," Fisher said. "It’s a tough process and as we move through and try to close the gap in as many places as we can, it gets tougher towards the end."


Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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