Originally posted on Celtics Town  |  Last updated 11/10/11

The NBA negotiations have been like Paul Pierce’s favorite shot — two dribbles forward, one giant leap back — except the negotiations have been hanging in the air for quite a bit longer than Pierce.

Reporters briefed by sources on Wednesday’s negotiations could all agree: progress was made. But whether that progress is enough to stem the prevalent tide of instability remains to be seen. These labor discussions are like Rasheed Wallace — you never know when they might boil over and become completely irrational, all you know is they become irrational far more often than they should. And they almost became irrational yesterday. (NBA.com)

One source told NBA.com that the negotiations remain fragile. “It could blow up at any minute,” he said. “It almost blew up a couple of times [Wednesday], but it didn’t.”

(Here comes the putter toss … wait, he’s restrained himself!)

The players, should this week’s negotiations fail, are reportedly ready to drop two different nuclear bombs. A source told NBA.com the players are ready to move with a disclaimer of interest, and another source told Zach Lowe the players are also ready to file for decertification of the union. Both legal maneuvers could be done simultaneously, since a petition for decertification would take 45-60 days before going to a union-wide vote.

But those options will only move forward if the league does not reach a labor agreement this week. Somewhere in the middle of all the negotiating ruckus, all that fragility, progress was made. Both NBA.com and Adrian Wojnarowski reported there was progress made on three of the five key issues holding back a deal. (NBA.com)

There allegedly was even some progress on three of five issues cited Tuesday by the union as vital to their willingness to consider a 50-50 split (the players received 57 percent in the old CBA and had moved to a formal position of 52.5).

Much of the debate is over restrictions that would be imposed on free-spending teams above the luxury tax threshold, with the union striving to keep them in the marketplace for players and the owners hoping to direct free agents to other rosters.

The problem is, three out of five is equivalent to Dwight Howard’s free throw percentage. The league at least needs to shoot like Ray Allen.

One shot they’ll need to drain is the mid-level exception. Zach Lowe reports the league and union moved closer to an agreement regarding the exception, but cautioned there has been no agreement on the issue.

The league has softened its proposal to take the full mid-level exception from teams that pay the luxury tax and replace it with a miniature mid-level worth half as much, according to one source familiar with the matter. The union has fought against measures that would, in its view, make the luxury tax operate like a hard salary cap and remove the league’s biggest spenders from the free-agent market. The union has argued such measures would redistribute salary away from middle-class veterans and toward superstars, stifle freedom of movement and do little to create competitive balance among teams.

The mid-level exception is a crucial battleground, and the two sides aren’t close to an agreement there despite the league’s move to bat around a variety of potential compromises on Wednesday, per a source. But at least they are talking, and there is incremental progress — enough progress to at least justify another meeting Thursday at noon, according to Stern, union president Derek Fisher and union executive director Billy Hunter.

Can’t I just write about real basketball issues yet?

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