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Talks press on after progress

NEW YORK -- With a day of progress behind them and the hope of a full 82-game season still ahead, NBA players and owners resumed talks toward ending the lockout.

Small groups from both sides returned to a hotel Thursday less than 12 hours after finishing a 15-hour meeting that went until past 3 a.m. Both sides acknowledged there was progress on issues related to the salary cap system, though they didn't offer any specifics.

Commissioner David Stern said he expected to continue discussing the system Thursday. And union executive director Billy Hunter said they might be in a better position to quantify the progress on specific issues following those talks.

Though the first two weeks of the season have been canceled because of the lockout, Hunter said he believed 82 games were still possible with a deal by Sunday or Monday.

"We're not putting a specific date on it," Stern said. "We just think we've got to do it soon, and if we could make a deal obviously we're partnered with the union in an effort to have as many games as we can."

A full season might be difficult even with a deal this week. It takes roughly 30 days from agreement to games being played, so it's uncertain if there's still time for any basketball in November even before examining arena availability. But 82 games would be a boost for the players, meaning they wouldn't miss the paycheck that seemed lost when the first two weeks were scrapped.

"We haven't been promised or guaranteed that if we get a deal done by a certain date, that we'll get a full 82-game schedule," union president Derek Fisher said. "But I think to Billy's point, the likelihood or at least the chance of that happening, although it may be slim, is still possible."

It was widely expected Stern would announce further cancellations this week after talks broke down a week ago. Instead, the sides were in communication the next day, staffs met Monday, and they were back at the bargaining table Wednesday, acting on Hunter's recommendation to "park" the revenue split and focus on the system.

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