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NBA Lockout Continues, No Agreement in Sight

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Looks like the only basketball to be seen at STAPLES Center will be the Jerry West (pictured here) and Magic Johnson statues in front of the arena. (LAist/Jimmy Bramlett)
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After hours of negotiations between owners and players this afternoon, there is still no word on whether the Nov. 1 start of the NBA season is still on but it looks more and more unlikely.

NBA commissioner David Stern said in a press conference that if no agreement were made by Monday, "the first two weeks of the season would be cancelled." Stern also announced that the remainder of the exhibition season will be cancelled.

According to National Basketball Players’ Association Executive Director Billy Hunter, no further meetings are scheduled with the owners. Hunter also mentioned that the players were willing to miss games.

Today was highlighted as the do-or-die day, the day that would make or break the start of the season as both sides professed. Apparently it wasn’t so urgent since nothing was made or broken, done or died. However it was said that if significant progress could not be had, part of the season could be cancelled if not the entire season.

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There are two big issues at play here: revenue splits between the owners and players and the institution of a hard salary cap. Under the old deal players were guaranteed 57 percent of revenues - the owners want a reduction to 47 percent. The players offered a reduction down to 53 percent.

Stern said the thought of a 50/50 revenue split was brought up but the players had rejected the offer.

Additionally the owners want a hard salary cap as opposed to the soft cap that has existed. Under a hard cap, teams will not be allowed to spend over the cap. Conversely under a soft cap, teams that go over the cap pay a luxury tax which is distributed amongst the teams. Players say this will lower spending by owners which will lower salaries.

However Stern said that the owners conceded. "The owners moved off the hard cap," Stern said.

Things have been contentious in bargaining meetings. Commissioner David Stern well known for his bully act has made a clear line in the sand - the owners will not accept anything less than both a hard cap and more of the revenue share. The players have been agreeable about lowering their share of revenues, although not as much to the liking of the owners naturally, but will not budge on their refusal of a hard cap. Things have gotten so bad that Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade reported lashed out verbally against Stern when Stern starting pointing his finger at the players.

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That sounds bad enough, but the breakdowns go beyond the standard labor vs. management relationship.

There is dissention among the ranks of the owners. Phoenix Suns’ owner Robert Sarver and Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert are the hardliners amongst the owners. It has been reported other owners, especially from the big market teams like the Lakers’ Jerry Buss and New York Knicks’ James Dolan, were willing to budge. Having no season would severely impact the big-markets’ bottom-lines whereas the small-market teams are willing to sacrifice the season.

But here’s something that could strike fear with Stern. The agents are starting to chatter about getting involved. If players’ salaries get cut, agents’ commissions also fall by the wayside. As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday morning, agents are threatening to decertify the union, oust executive director Billy Hunter and file an anti-trust lawsuit a la the NFL.

They’ve wanted to take on Stern forever, and they’re determined to replace Hunter and his lawyers with hard-core labor lawyers and throw some uncertainty into the owners’ fight. This could be a wild scene in Manhattan, where defiance out of Stern, out of his owners, promises to inspire all hell to break loose.

The losers in all of this, as Jim Peltz of the L.A. Times reported last week, are the arena workers. Although STAPLES Center employees will have a slight relief with the Kings’ still playing, that’s only 1/3 of the events at the arena.

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The NBA needs to realize they are not Teflon-coated or loved like the NFL. If the NBA doesn’t salvage a part of their season like they did in the 1998-99 season, then all of the excitement the league generated last season will vanish in the air.