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NBA cancels rest of exhibition schedule

NBA LABOR NEGOTIATIONS

League moves to the brink of scrapping the first two weeks of the regular season as labor negotiations with players fall apart after a four-hour meeting.

October 04, 2011|By Lance Pugmire
  • NBA Commissioner David Stern says the first two weeks of the regular season could be scrapped if a labor agreement is not reached soon.
NBA Commissioner David Stern says the first two weeks of the regular season… (Patrick McDermott / Getty…)

The NBA on Tuesday canceled the rest of its exhibition schedule and moved to the brink of scrapping the first two weeks of the regular season after labor talks with players about how to split league income crumbled in a four-hour negotiating session.

Commissioner David Stern said he'll cancel the first two weeks of games if no labor deal is struck by Monday. The regular season opener is scheduled for Nov. 1.

"We're looking down the barrel of an extraordinary hit to the owners and players," Stern said at a news conference in New York. He estimated $200 million in lost revenue by axing 114 exhibition games.

"Today was not the day for us to get this done. As of this moment, we've broken off negotiations," Derek Fisher, players' union president and Lakers point guard, told reporters after the bargaining session.

Players' union Executive Director Billy Hunter was asked when the next negotiating session would be.

"Maybe a month. Two months. Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "Our guys have indicated a willingness to lose games."

Stern said Tuesday's session ended after he told union leadership he'd ask league owners to accept a 50% split of basketball-related income, and the union answered such a share was "unacceptable."

Players earned 57% of BRI in the 2010-11 season — about $2.15 billion in total salaries — and the union offered to accept 53%. Owners claim 22 of 30 teams were unprofitable and lost a combined $300 million last season.

Until Tuesday, owners had asked the players to accept a pay cut to 46% of BRI, then moved to 47%.

Stern said the 50-50 owners' proposal was contingent on a new 10-year collective-bargaining package that would allow the players, who had previously balked at such a long deal, to opt out after seven years.

"It's fair to say we made good progress with our owners, but the players said no," Stern said. "We're disappointed. This would be a good thing to do. This made a lot of sense."

Added Stern: "We'd like not to lose the first two weeks [of the regular season], but it doesn't look good."

Adam Silver, deputy NBA commissioner, said, "We should've continued negotiating [Tuesday because 50-50] sounds like a partnership."

Owners had also agreed to no rollbacks on existing player contracts, Stern said. But players remain concerned about ownership reducing guaranteed money in future deals and capping team payroll with a hard salary cap.

The NBA locked out the players after the last labor contact expired on July 1.

Some labor analysts have speculated the owners believe that the players will be more willing to accept pay cuts once they start missing league paychecks, which would ordinarily start in mid-November.

Hunter said the union will establish workout facilities for the players as the lockout nears its 100th day.

Standing alongside Fisher after attending Tuesday's meeting was Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

"The development here is that I have time to play overseas," Bryant said.

Bryant is close to signing an offer to playbasketball in Italy.

Stern said the NBA has "no reaction" to players such as Bryant earning pay in pro leagues overseas.

"A player who makes $16 million [in the NBA] is going to make $3 million in Turkey, and a player who makes $5 million here is going to make $1 million in China," Stern said, pressing his lips together to display indifference. "We have no reaction other than, 'Be safe, come back when we settle.' "

Pugmire reported from Los Angeles.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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