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The NBA put a new collective bargaining offer on the table Friday, although the players union said it barely varied from the owners' previous proposal demanding a "hard" salary cap.

It was the first formal offer made by the owners since May 27. Union director Billy Hunter said he would prepare a detailed response to be presented to the owners next Tuesday.

"Once we respond, we'll decide collectively where we go from there," Hunter said.

A new labor agreement would have to be in place by the second week of October -- at the very latest -- in order to save the 82-game regular season. The league has already canceled some exhibition games and postponed the start of training camps indefinitely, and the players have been told to expect the lockout to extend into December -- or longer.

In their May 27 proposal, owners asked for a four-year phase out of the Larry Bird exception, which allows teams to exceed the salary cap to retain their own free agents. Owners also asked that the percentage of basketball-related income (BRI) devoted to player salaries be scaled back over four years from 57 percent to 48 percent.

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