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NBA union chief optimistic sides will avoid lockout

NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts says she’s had a good working relationship with commissioner Adam Silver (above).
NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts says she’s had a good working relationship with commissioner Adam Silver (above).(Jeff Chiu/Associated Press/File 2016)

After a flurry of stunning and unprecedented free agent contracts this summer with the influx of money from the NBA’s new television deal, times have never been better for the NBA Players Association.

And now, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said she’s “optimistic” about getting a new labor deal done before any chance for a lockout.

The NBPA and NBA each has the option to conclude their 10-year deal signed in 2011 following the 2016-17 season, adding urgency to the sides negotiating a new contract. Roberts told the Globe in a telephone interview that the sides are talking and making progress.

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“I can’t [discuss the talks] because I promised [not to],” she said. “I’m not going to be too terribly substantive but I will say I do believe and [commissioner] Adam [Silver], I hope he agrees, he and I continue to maintain a civil relationship. I actually like him. I think that he’s a pro.

“We’ve had discussions. Our teams have been in discussions for some months now and we have made progress and we’re inclined to continue along those lines. We have meetings this summer and we’re meeting next week and [consistently] after that. We’re trying to get a deal as quickly as we can, ideally before the start of the season.”

The league’s owners did not want this influx of television money to have such a profound increase on the salary cap. They suggested a “smoothing” effect, where the money would be injected into the cap over several years, but that was soundly rejected by the NBPA. With a $20 million salary cap increase, reserve players such as Solomon Hill, Tyler Johnson, and Allen Crabbe cashed in on eye-popping deals, perhaps creating more of a division between the NBPA and the league’s owners.

Roberts said the discussions have been amicable and she remains hopeful of a deal before the Dec. 15 opt-out date.

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“I’ve heard Adam proclaim his optimism,” she said. “I’ve proclaimed mine, so I would like to sooner rather than later be able to have a press conference where we both stand together and announce together that we have a deal and there will be no work stoppage. There will be no lockout.

“Having said that, I’ve got to be ready for anything. But I am optimistic.”

Yet, Roberts said that if a deal is not reached by Dec. 14, the NBPA is highly likely to opt out of the deal by the next day, which is the deadline to end the current deal after the 2016-17 season. In 2011, the sides feuded until December, causing a lockout that sliced 16 games off the regular season and created a compressed schedule.

That labor discord was between previous leaders David Stern and Billy Hunter. The relationship between Silver and Roberts appears more cordial and talks are ongoing and appear good-natured, and Roberts said she wants to avoid any labor strife.

“Nothing is certain but I cannot imagine that if we don’t have an agreement on Dec. 14 and the opt-out deadline is Dec. 15, 2016, if that’s where I find myself, I think it’s probably a safe bet that we would opt out,” Roberts said. “I think it’s probably a safe bet that the league would. We want a deal. We don’t want to play the opt-out game. We want a deal.’’

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Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.