The mood has changed.
After a frustrating rollercoaster of rhetoric, disagreement, and the constant threat of a lost season since the NBA lockout began on July 1, it appears that the finish line might have at last appeared, with NBA commissioner David Stern and National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter both suggesting after a 7.5-hour negotiating session in New York on Thursday that the stage was set for an agreement to be reached if not Friday, then in the coming days.
"I think we're within striking distance of getting a deal," Hunter said, stating that the two sides would spend as much time as possible on Friday “in the hopes of getting a deal.”
Stern said it would be a failure of the parties involved if an agreement in principle wasn’t reached in the coming days, which it must be to preserve the possibility of an 82-game schedule. A 15-hour negotiation on Wednesday raised hopes that first steps had been made with that in mind. Things will get started again at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
“I can’t tell you we’ve resolved anything in such a big way,” Stern said. “But there’s an element of continuity, familiarity and I would hope trust that would enable us to look forward to, where we anticipate there will be some important and additional progress, or not.”
It was as if Stern had to remind himself to add the final two words, just in case. Keep in mind, last week devolved into the worst rhetoric to date. Until it doesn’t happen again, it remains a possibility.