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NBA Owners, Players to Meet with Federal Mediator Today

Representatives for the NBA owners and players are meeting together today with George Cohen, a federal mediator, in the hopes that the two sides will find some common ground, get a CBA in place, and start playing games as soon as possible.

ESPN’s Larry Coon details how mediation works, and the unlikelihood that Cohen succeeds.

This is not to say that Cohen is in over his head, or that mediation can’t possibly work. It’s just that the two sides are dug in, and Cohen has very little time to find enough common ground for a deal. He originally asked the sides to set aside the entire week, but NBA Board of Governors meetings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday prevent the league from participating past Tuesday. There’s a lot of work to do, and very little time in which to do it.

Coon puts hope in the crucial stage of mediation called “caucusing,” where Cohen will meet with both sides in secret meetings, allowing each side to convey to him what they’re willing to compromise on without the other side knowing. Cohen can then use this information to try to broker a deal.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Talks have been at a standstill ever since players-union reps made the disastrous mistake of bringing in actual NBA stars to meet with owners during negotiations. TrueHoop reported that on October 4, with talks going very well and a week away from David Stern’s deadline to cancel games, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett were called in to formally reject the latest offer from the owners. Reports trickled out that the owners saw this as an amateur maneuver, and that perhaps the hot-tempered Garnett blew his stack. The sides have remained entrenched ever since that day.

A federal mediator might be helpful in drawing the sides back to the table. But he’s got a monumental task ahead of him if the hope is that the season won’t lose any more games.