NBA lockout: Hopes fading for season

NBA lockout negotiations break with no resolution. NBA lockout looks to drag on with no new talks scheduled.

Mary Altaffer/AP
NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to reporters after a meeting with the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday. With both sides entrenched and no new talks scheduled, the NBA lockout looks to drag on for some time.

The likelihood of the NBA season starting at any point over the coming months appeared to be fast disappearing after marathon talks between players and owners ended this week without a deal being struck.

If anything, the gap between the two sides in their long-running labor dispute loomed as large as ever, despite indications that some progress had been made early on in their meetings in New York with federal mediator George Cohen.

When negotiations were finally halted on Thursday night after a total of 30 hours of discussions spread over three days, the body language on both sides summed up the impasse.

"We've kind of worn each other out," a grim-faced Peter Holt, chairman of the NBA's labor relations committee, told reporters. "We are where we are and they are where they are."

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, sitting next to Holt, said: "Ultimately, we were unable to bridge the gap that separates the two parties. At this time, we have no further discussions scheduled with the union."

The two sides are divided over two key issues -- the division of basketball-related income and the structure of the salary cap system.

NBA owners contend the league lost $300 million last season with 22 of 30 teams in the red and initially demanded players cut their share of revenue from 57 to 47 percent from the previous collective bargaining agreement, along with a firm salary cap and shorter contracts.

The players offered to reduce their share from 57 to 53 percent, and lowered that to 52.5 percent Thursday.

That was not enough for the owners, who had formally proposed a 50-50 split.

"That's when we broke off," Silver said of the abrupt halt to negotiations after five hours of mediation on Thursday.

NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher was left with a bitter taste in his mouth.

"I want to make it clear that you guys were lied to earlier," he told reporters. "It's that simple. We've spent the last few days making our best effort to try and find resolution here. Not one that was necessarily a win-win.

"It wouldn't be a win for us, it wouldn't be a win for them but one that we felt like could get our game back-started and get our guys back on the court, get our vendors back to work, get the arenas open and get these communities revitalised."

The pre-season and the first two weeks of the regular season had already been cancelled due to the protracted lockout that began on July 1 after the players and owners failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

Fisher, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, said the owners had incorrectly portrayed the union as having pre-conditions coming into the mediation talks.

"We in no way implied that we're not here to continue to negotiate," he added. "We in no way tied any one part to the other. We did not pre-condition our time and effort here.

"We continued to express our willingness to negotiate on the split as well as the system. We didn't say if they're not willing to come from 50 up to us at 52.5, that the talks are off.

"Coming into this process, we felt we were at 53 and they were at 50 and we would find a way to bridge that gap. Obviously they have no intention of moving from 50."

The NBA owners appear to be more focused on trying to find a way to give every team in the league an opportunity to be profitable.

"The competitive issues are as big an issue for us, as owners of these teams, as the economic issues are -- and particularly for the small markets," Holt said.

"We want to get to the point where all 30 markets have an opportunity, nothing guaranteed, but an opportunity to be competitive and an opportunity to make a few bucks.

"And so, on both sides of those issues, we went back and forth, and have been going back and forth for two years, and we're still pretty far apart."

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