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Even if NBA lockout is settled, rescheduling games won't be easy

Two weeks of games have been canceled, but there's talk of extending the season if a labor deal happens soon. But some arenas, including Staples Center, may be unavailable due to scheduling conflicts.

October 17, 2011|By Lance Pugmire
  • Even if center Andrew Bynum and the Lakers can get up and running this fall, extending the regular season and playoffs into late June or July isn't an option with major arenas like Staples Center.
Even if center Andrew Bynum and the Lakers can get up and running this fall,… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Maybe someone soon will blink in the NBA's lockout of players.

If there is a settlement, some contend that the season could be extended and playoffs perhaps stretched into July to accommodate a full 82-game schedule.

Finding a place to play, however, might be more difficult.

"I've heard talk that the players and owners would look to add games past the drop-dead date of the NBA Finals, June 21 — I know they are tinkering with that," said Lee Zeidman, general manager of Staples Center, home to the Lakers and Clippers.

"It can never happen here."

Federal mediator George Cohen will meet with representatives of team owners and the players' union Tuesday after separate discussions with both sides Monday. That comes a week after NBA Commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, Nov. 1-14.

The lack of scheduling flexibility in some arenas may make the need to achieve labor peace that much more time-sensitive if there is any hope for a full season.

Privately, players have speculated Stern won't allow the season to be scrapped. Internally, teams have asked arena owners to review their full schedules, including tentative concerts and other early-summer dates.

An NBA arena official unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter because of the threat of substantial league fines said players have told the official that scrapping the season's first two weeks was "just David being David," speculating a labor deal is near.

If that's the case, the players hypothesized, a full season could be saved.

But Madison Square Garden in New York has dedicated summer months to a billion-dollar renovation project. Other arenas have scheduling conflicts, according to an NBA executive familiar with scheduling issues. . And some NBA players will be required to gather for USA Basketball training camp in early July, with the 2012 Olympics in London scheduled to begin July 27.

Zeidman said he is following lockout news closely — including players' Twitter postings — as he works to cover his arena and its 4,000 part-time employees against the toll of missing 82 dates should the NBA not play this season.

He said when he heard talk of extending the season after receiving memos from the Lakers and Clippers requesting Staples' full 2012 schedule, his mind flashed to his schedule commitments.

"On June 22, 23 and 24, I have tentative concert holds, and at 4 a.m. on June 25, I'm contractually obligated to allow ESPN to start loading [the arena] for the X Games, that start June 30," Zeidman said. "Then, right after that, I have Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus coming in July 9-15."

An NBA spokesman declined to discuss the hypothetical scenario of extending the season.

Restoring games may help the sides strike a deal this week as they remain divided on issues such as splitting basketball-related income and how the salary cap/luxury tax system should work, but the league knows it would make for a logistical challenge, to say the least.

With 250 to 260 events per year at Staples, Zeidman said he is already bracing for how the league would try to reschedule lost division games.

"With two NBA teams, we're challenged to fill in any dates during the season with the Kings, Disney on Ice, the Pac-12 [basketball] tournament, concerts and the Grammys," Zeidman said. "Once they figure it out, it'll be tight in this building."

Or it could be dead. The league could scrap the rest of November's games if they can't achieve labor peace by next week.

"Potentially losing all these dates, needing to worry about the employees and the suite owners, we're actually trying to create things now," Zeidman said. "We're mining the concert field, considering beach volleyball, roller derby, a concert series with new bands.

"We don't need sellouts at this point, but we'd like to bring in 4,000 to 7,000 people on these nights we're losing. We need to keep the building working."

It won't work for the NBA after June 21, even if the Lakers recapture their championship form, or if Blake Griffin leads the Clippers to the promised land.

"We fulfilled our contract, adhered to the dates the league set for us in March," Zeidman said. "Contractually, we've taken care of all the dates they asked us to."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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