Players To Miss First Game Checks… NBA Cancels First Two Weeks Of Season

11 Oct

How many games will we see this season? 70? 60? 50? 0?

After roughly 13 hours of negotiations over two days failed to close what he termed a significant gulf “on virtually all issues,” NBA commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the 2011-12 regular season Monday night.

Stern also suggested that the cancellations imposed on the 102nd day of the NBA lockout — just the second work stoppage in league history to bleed into the regular season — essentially guarantee that a full 82-game season has also been lost after fruitless talks found NBA owners and players unable to agree on key items such as luxury-tax specifics, contract lengths and annual raises.

Those were not seen as the sort of issues that would derail negotiations as recently as last week, but they became as big over the last 48 hours as the sides’ ongoing inability to agree on a workable split of annual Basketball Related Income.

“We think that we made very fair proposals,” Stern told reporters in New York, describing himself as both sorry and sad about the parties’ inability to get close to the framework of a deal before Monday’s deadline to start the regular season on Nov. 1 as scheduled.

“I’m sure the players think the same thing,” Stern said. “But the gap is so significant that we just can’t bridge it at this time.”

Asked if he was prepared to rule out an 82-game schedule now that all games through Nov. 14 have been formally scrapped and not merely postponed, Stern said: “Yes, I think that’s right. And with every day that goes by, we need to look at further reductions in what’s left in the season.”

Stern and players association executive director Billy Hunter were in similar positions in 1998, when a 204-day lockout only left time for a 50-game regular season.

Said Hunter on Monday, intimating that canceling games and forcing NBA players to miss checks has been the owners’ intent for months: “I’m convinced that this is all just part of the plan.

“I think everybody’s waiting for the players to cave,” Hunter added. “They figure that once a player misses a check or two, it’s all over. I’m saying … that would be a horrible mistake if they think that’s going to happen, because it’s not going to happen. The players are all going to hang in.”

NBA players displayed their solidarity all day long with dozens of “LET US PLAY” tweets and #StayUnited hash tags at the urging of union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul. Yet as one source close to the talks observed: “People were tweeting ‘LET US PLAY’ all day long and the owners’ offers got worse by the end of the day.”

Sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher and Chris Broussard that the primary stumbling block in Tuesday’s talks centered around a punitive luxury-tax system being pushed by the owners that the union views as a virtual hard salary cap.

Stern cited the owners’ willingness to surrender their longstanding insistence on an actual hard cap as an example of how the league “made concession after concession.”

But sources told Bucher and Broussard that owners proposed system changes this week that included a luxury tax of $2 for every $1 that teams strayed above the tax threshold — doubling the tax that was applied in the previous collective bargaining agreement — and didn’t stop there.

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