Michael Jordan Reportedly Leading Group Taking Hard Line Against Players

"Against the backdrop of reported infighting and unrest within their own parties, NBA and union officials will meet Saturday in New York in yet another attempt to reach a collective bargaining agreement and end the four-month-long lockout.

It's the first meeting since talks broke off abruptly on Oct. 28, after which Commissioner David Stern canceled regular-season games through Nov. 30 and declared that a full, 82-game season is impossible.

Federal mediator George Cohen will oversee the talks, a league spokesman confirmed. Early last week, Cohen presided over three days of talks that produced progress on system issues such as luxury tax and salary cap details.

Whenever the two sides have tried to solve the two issues simultaneously — the system issues and the split of basketball-related income — talks have broken off. The league publicly has said it has offered a 50-50 split of income as long as system issues such as a more punitive luxury tax offer more competitive balance.

The union has offered to drop its take from 57 percent under the old agreement to 52 percent, while wanting to structure system issues to allow for similar guarantees on contracts and player movement.

Multiple reports said late Thursday that a group of roughly 50 players might seek to decertify the players association, which likely would plunge the labor mess into the courts and possibly spell a death knell on the entire season. However, one source who had been briefed on the players' talks with an antitrust attorney said there isn't yet widespread support for the move.

As for the owners, the New York Times reported Friday that Bobcats majority owner Michael Jordan is leading a group of 10-to-14 hard-line owners who will oppose any deal offering more than a 50-50 split of income.

Jordan famously told late Wizards owner Abe Pollin "if you can't make a profit, you should sell your team" during the last lockout that claimed 32 games of the 1998-99 season. The owners will meet Saturday morning before negotiations begin with the union."

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