NEW YORK (AP) — Commissioner David Stern said Tuesday that NBA owners have proposed a “flex cap” system, but players still insist it’s a hard cap which they won’t agree to.

Both sides made new proposals in a 3½-hour meeting on what Stern said was an important day in the league’s labor talks. The collective bargaining agreement is set to expire June 30.

Calling the league’s offer “virtually the best shot we think we have” to avoid a work stoppage, Stern said the owners’ proposal would ensure players’ total compensation would never fall below $2 billion per year in a 10-year contract, just slightly less than the league paid out this season.

Though Stern refused to call this his last offer, he said the “cupboard is getting barer and barer.”

“It’s all out there,” he said. “The owners to a person feel that this is what we have to give.”

The flex cap offer had previously been proposed to the players, but had not been disclosed publicly until Tuesday. According to Stern, teams would be targeted to spend approximately $62 million, with the option to spend above through various exceptions before reaching an unspecified level they could not exceed.

Under the current soft salary cap system, teams can use various exceptions to exceed the cap, with the penalty of a dollar for dollar luxury tax once they reach a certain threshold.

Because the new system would have a high-end level that could not be exceeded, players are still considering it a hard cap, which they said was a nonstarter at the beginning of the negotiations.

The union made what Stern called a “directionally better” proposal than its previous ones and asked for another meeting Friday.

“Today was productive and there was movement, but we’re still very far apart and … the hard salary cap system is still something that we’re really having difficulty trying to get past,” players’ association president Derek Fisher of the Lakers said. “Our players just don’t see that as the best way to tackle some of the things at least we’ve been given by owners as to reasons why we need a hard salary cap.”


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