Tuesday was a crucial day of meetings between the NBA Players' Association and league owners, with the future of the upcoming basketball season in jeopardy. Back on July 1, the league locked out the players when the two sides failed to reach a new labor deal. The owners, claiming to have lost $300 million last season, have been seeking a new salary cap structure and a reduction to the players' guaranteed share of league income, which was 57 percent last year. This week, players reportedly nixed the prospect of a 50-50 split (they've long insisted on 53-47), and because no agreement was reached Tuesday, NBA Commissioner David Stern canceled the remainder of the preseason, at a reported loss of $200 million to the league. If no agreement is reached by next Monday, then the first two weeks of the season, set to begin Nov. 1, will also likely be canceled. How much basketball will eventually be scrapped? Here, four theories:
1. Those first two weeks are gone for sure
Monday is D-Day, says Howard Beck at The New York Times. With no additional meetings scheduled and no indication from either party that they will re-engage in talks anytime soon, it's all but assured that "games will be lost to a labor crisis for the second time in league history." (The first was the shortened 1998-1999 season, which didn't begin until February because of a labor dispute.) Even Stern, speaking to reporters following Tuesday's failed negotiations, suggested that with less than a month to go before the season's scheduled Nov. 1 start date, the first two weeks of regular season games would be impossible to play.
2. And the season will almost certainly be reduced even more
The circumstances are very similar to 1998-99, when a work stoppage reduced the season to just 50 games, says ESPN. This time around, both sides still won't budge on a salary cap structure, and the players say "they will not accept a bad deal just to get back on the court quicker." More worrisome: Many marquee players are already signing contracts to play in Turkey, China, and Russia. Even Kobe Bryant is reportedly close to signing a $3-million contract to play basketball in Italy, proving they have no qualms moving on. A quick resolution just doesn't seem to be in the cards.
3. It's likely the whole season will be lost
I wouldn't be surprised if it's a month or more before the two sides even meet again, says Marc Berman at the New York Post. Back in 1998, once the regular season was initially postponed, negotiations broke off for five weeks. The same could happen again. Once some games — and their revenue — are lost, "the owners' position will harden and the threat of the season being lost increases." In that case, the gap between the two sides' demands would only widen.
4. Don't give up — the whole season might still be saved
The two sides are only about $80 million a year apart on the economics of a new collective bargaining agreement, says Ken Berger at CBS Sports. They are "so close to a deal that it is almost incomprehensible they would chose millions in losses — or billions from a completely lost season — instead." The two parties were at one point $8 billion apart in their demands; the fact that they've made so much headway indicates that "the end is near." Don't be surprised if a last-minute meeting is scheduled, and an agreement is reached Sunday night, on the eve of the deadline.
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