David Stern Threatening To Cancel The NBA Season

28 Sep

NBAPA Executive Director Billy Hunter and NBA Commissioner David Stern pictured here smiling, aren't all smiles at the negotiation table.

When NBA labor talks resume Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern is planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if the sides haven’t made major progress toward a deal by the end of the weekend, according to sources close to the talks.

Although sources said the union views such an extreme stance as more of a negotiating tactic than a legitimate threat, Stern went almost that far in his comments to reporters in New York on Wednesday after a second straight day of negotiations.

Referring to meetings scheduled Friday that are expected to attract as many as 15 owners and star players such as the Heat’s LeBron James, Stern said: “I’m focused on let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”

In 1998-99, the only season in NBA history in which regular-season games were lost to a work stoppage, no deal was reached until Jan. 6, 1999, with a 50-game season finally starting on Feb. 6, 1999.

It remains to be seen if Stern’s remarks Thursday will have the intended “scare” effect and convince a players to accept a deal now on the premise that the NBA is not willing to stage a shortened season this time.

At a minimum, sources said, cancellation of regular-season games next week is a certainty if a deal isn’t within sight by Monday.

The league and the union did agree Wednesday to meet again Friday and likely through the weekend, but Stern warned that there are “enormous consequences at play” in coming days. Sources said that the sides need to have an agreement in principle by the middle of the next week at the latest in order to ensure that the entire 82-game regular season, scheduled to begin Nov. 1, can be played.

Two days’ worth of talks ended Wednesday to allow negotiators from both sides observer the Rosh Hashanah holiday that began Wednesday night at sundown.

Each side has summoned its respective bargaining committee to New York on Friday for the most important stretch of the lockout to date, pledging to meet through the weekend if progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement is being made.

NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has called for his executive committee members, as well as some of the league’s superstars such as Kobe Bryant and James, to meet Friday in New York, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard. Bryant, though, has been in Europe all week on a Nike promotional tour and is not expected to back in time for Friday’s session.

Sources told Broussard that Stern is also scheduled to meet with league owners Friday, with owners and players expected to end up in the same room for negotiations. If James attends, that could result in his first face-to-face meeting with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert since James left Cleveland for Miami last summer.

Union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers said of the expanded meetings: “I think it points more toward the calendar than actually being able to measure progress. It points to the realities that we face with our calendar and that if we can’t find a way to get some common ground really, really soon, then the time of starting the regular season at its scheduled date is going to be in jeopardy big-time.”

Fisher said some of the league’s biggest names could join the executive committee in Friday’s meeting, and Miami guard Dwyane Wade has committed to attend.

Wade was part of a meeting about labor issues at the 2010 All-Star weekend in Dallas, when players were briefed about owners’ plans for dramatic changes to the league’s salary structure.

“I look forward to learning something that I didn’t learn two years ago,” Wade told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “Hopefully, it’s different information, something that will move us forward. Hopefully we don’t walk out of the meeting back at where we were at the All-Star game two years ago.”

Wade has been in New York for the past couple days for business meetings. When the invitation came to attend Friday’s session, he did not hesitate.

“I’ve talked to a couple guys,” Wade said. “I’m here. … I was going to leave tomorrow, but I’m going to stay in town and go to the next meeting.”

With the scheduled Nov. 1 season openers just over a month away, Stern said there would be “a lot of risk” attached to a failure to reach an agreement in principle by the end of the week. But both sides made it clear in press briefings after Wednesday’s talks that there hasn’t been enough progress to put them on the verge of a deal.

The lockout entered its 90th day Wednesday.
Continue Reading at ESPN.COM→

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