As CBS Sports points out in rather dramatic fashion, the next two days of negotiations are hugely important for both sides in this NBA labor war: “Welcome to the most important 48 hours of David Stern’s reign as commissioner of the NBA. Welcome to a transformational moment for the league, one that dwarfs Magic Johnson’s retirement, Michael Jordan’s retirement(s), cocaine scandals and a crooked referee. This is it. On Monday and Tuesday in a swanky Manhattan hotel, Stern and his owners and Billy Hunter and his players will have their fingers pointed directly at each other — and also, on the detonation button. Will they press it? This is where we are. I have thought for some time that calmer heads would prevail and staunch bargaining positions would evolve into reasonable beliefs in time to save the 2011-12 season. That can still happen, and it can still happen a week from now, or two weeks from now — though starting on time and preserving a full schedule would be impossible at that point. Monday and Tuesday in Manhattan is the fourth quarter for Stern, Hunter and their sport. It is winning time, or losing time. There are no ties. There’s no in between. It is time to get a deal. And there is a deal there to be made — a fair, reasonable one for both sides. It is too bad that, at this point, neither side has been pushed far enough to the brink for fair and reasonable to carry the day. We will know in the next 48 hours if that is going to happen — if the positions each side is anchored to represent their actual beliefs and requirements in a new collective bargaining agreement or simply negotiating tactics. It is time to put the cards on the table and find out who is bluffing. The possibility — a great one, at that — that nobody is? That should terrify everyone involved. After a brief glimmer of hope a couple weeks ago that the owners and players had an agreement on the economics within reach, it turns out that they’re still so far apart on how to divide the NBA’s nearly $4 billion in revenues that they had to stop talking about it or watch the negotiations implode. But after two mostly fruitless days discussing the other elephant in the room — salary cap and system issues — the real conflict here remains centered on what it is always about in sports. The money.”