It’s Halloween weekend in New York. And a costume ball is underway at the Manhattan Hotel hosting this weekend’s NBA lockout negotiations.But Friday’s meetings ended short of the treats basketball fans anticipated. Only tricks followed Thursday evening’s optimism for a full 82-game schedule. As fans will now be without basketball through at least November following NBA commissioner David Stern’s announcement that games have been officially canceled for the final two weeks of the month.
“It’s not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now,” Stern said in a very dispirited tone at the post-meeting negotiations. “We held out that joint hope together, but in light of the breakdown of talks there will not be a full NBA season under any circumstances.”
This was not Friday’s expected outcome. Not after Stern and union head Billy Hunter shared a laugh in the back of a room the previous night. Not after Hunter declared a deal “within striking distance.”
How did we get here?
Both sides made major progress the previous 48 hours surrounding “system issues.” But the biggest factor dividing the two sides – basketball related income – remained.
Players believed owners had moved off a 50-50 hardline split. Stern said owners had softened their hard stance – of lowering the players’ BRI percentage to 47.
“After last session, we were at 47 (per cent),” Stern said. “We were prepared to go to 50.”
That remains a dealbreaker for the union. Nothing’s changed. Having already conceded a willingness to move down from 57 to 52.5 per cent, Stern’s announcement quickly closed the book on Friday’s negotiations.
“Billy Hunter said he was not willing to go a penny below 52 (per cent), that he had been getting many calls by agents,” Stern said. “He closed up his book and walked out the room. And that’s where we are.”
Hunter feels the players were “snookered.” That Stern is “playing checkers” with the union and jumping all over the board.
“Our number was our number,” Hunter said while surrounded by reporters in the hotel lobby. “We know what our players are willing to accept. Derek (Fisher) and I made it clear we cannot sell a 50/50 deal to our membership.”
The players have made their concessions. Giving up hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of basketball related income. Stern believes the owners have made their concessions regarding system issues. Saying owners have agreed to keep the player’s $5 million midlevel exception proposal and satisfy their contract length requirements.
Both sides believe they have conceded all they can. Both sides believe the other is being unreasonable. Now, they will both continue to suffer.
“Both sides are very badly damaged,” Stern said. “The amount of dollars lost to the owners is extraordinary and the amount of dollars lost to the players under individual contracts is also extraordinary.”
As is the disappointment in Friday’s failure. Many believed the lockout would end Sunday. Now, Halloween weekend may end without another scheduled meeting.
Just a lot of happy children covered in chocolate. And many NBA fans disheartened by further losses of their basketball candy.
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