More NBA cancellations
Stern says hopes for a full season are gone
The smiles and good feelings generated by talks the past two days could do little to help compensate for the 2 1/2 percent gap in basketball-related income (BRI) that remains between NBA owners and players. And so yesterday, commissioner David Stern canceled the final two weeks of November games.
Eight Celtics games were canceled, including three at TD Garden - Nov. 20 against the Warriors, Nov. 23 against the Raptors, and Nov. 25 against the Bucks. In all, 14 Celtics games have been wiped out because of the four-month lockout, and yesterday’s developments may have been the most discouraging.
“It’s not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now,’’ Stern said. “We held out that joint hope together, but in light of the breakdown of talks, there will not be a full NBA season under any circumstances.’’
The sides reconvened Wednesday and spent two days making significant progress on issues such as contract lengths, midlevel and Larry Bird exceptions, and contract increases. Both sides said Thursday night that yesterday would be significant in striking a deal, but after meeting for six hours, they remained 2 1/2 percent apart on basketball-related income.
The players, who received 57 percent of the BRI in the previous collective bargaining agreement, want a 52 1/2-47 1/2 split, while the owners stuck to their 50-50 offer from last week. When players’ association executive director Billy Hunter learned that the owners would not budge on their offer, he ended the negotiations, and the sides departed without scheduling future discussions, meaning fans remain in limbo over whether there will be a season.
Shortly after the meetings, Stern canceled the final two weeks of November games. But in reality, because the league would need at least a month for free agency, training camp, and preseason, the schedule would not have begun until at least December if an agreement was reached yesterday.
“There were two or three open items left on the system issues, on which, as I said, we made good progress,’’ Stern told reporters at a Manhattan hotel. “Then we turned to the subject of how to divide basketball-related income. I summarized the positions of the parties previously and said that the NBA owners were willing to go to 50 percent in their BRI. Billy Hunter said that he was not willing to go a penny below 52, that he had been getting many calls from agents, and he closed up his book and walked out of the room. And that’s where we are.’’
Hunter claims the players already have made significant concessions by reducing their offer to 52 1/2 percent, and he was under the impression the owners would compromise yesterday. But he said Stern never wavered from 50, making the union feel deceived.
“We’re at 52 1/2 and we’re not quite sure if they are at 50 or at 47,’’ players’ association president Derek Fisher said. “So we’re trying to really remain focused on the fact that this deal, both system and BRI, has to be one that our players, for the next 10 years, can operate under. So we didn’t want to rush through this today just to build this artificial pressure to close out a deal. We’re not sure when we’ll meet again, but we’re hopeful soon enough we’ll be back at this.’’
Said Hunter, “We made a lot of concessions but unfortunately this time it’s not enough, and we’re not prepared to move any further. It appears the more we give on the system, we are painting ourselves into a corner because we don’t want a hard cap any kind of way. [The owners] are not negotiating in good faith. We trusted you one more time and one more time, it’s sort of like the serpent and frog, you’ve bitten us.’’
Stern said that the owners’ next proposal will take into account those losses caused by missing the first month of the season. He said the NBA already has lost $200 million, and that the longer the lockout lasts, the more detrimental it will be for the sport.
“I would say both sides are very badly damaged,’’ he said. “The amount of dollars lost to the owners is extraordinary, and the amount of dollars lost to the players under individual contracts is also extraordinary. There will be two severe sets of losses. But that’s what happens in a labor dispute where there’s a shutdown. So the NBA’s offer will reflect the extraordinary losses that are starting to pile up now, and you can assume that our offer will change to reflect the changed economic circumstances.’’