NBA talks break down, preseason games wiped out

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NBA Commissioner David Stern floated it as an idea more than a firm proposal: a 50-50 revenue split.

Even so, the union's reply was unequivocal.

"They said, 'We can't do it.'" according to Stern.

And with that, the remainder of the preseason was lost and the first two weeks of the regular season moved to the brink of cancellation.

The National Basketball Association shelved the rest of its exhibition schedule Tuesday and will wipe out the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no labor agreement by Monday.

The Indiana Pacers will lose eight preseason games to the lockout, including at least three games at home. Three preseason games already had been called off, including at least two home games.

"We were not able to make the progress that we hoped we could make and we were not able to continue the negotiations," Stern said after nearly fours of talks between owners and players ended without gaining ground on a new deal.

No further meetings are scheduled, making it even more likely the league will lose games to a work stoppage for the first time since 1998-99, when the season was reduced to 50 games.

If the season is canceled, Indianapolis stands to lose about $55 million in economic activity, according to a 2010 study done by Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners for the city’s Capital Improvement Board, which owns Conseco Fieldhouse.

Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said owners offered players a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. That's below the 57 percent that players were guaranteed under the previous collective bargaining agreement, but more than the 47 percent union officials said was formally proposed to them.

The only numbers that matter now, however, are the millions that stand to be lost when arenas go dark.

"The damage will be enormous," Silver said.

Players had offered to reduce their BRI guarantee to 53 percent, which they said would have given owners back more than $1 billion over six years. They say they won't cut it further, at least for now.

And they insist the 50-50 concept wasn't an even split, because it would have come after the league had already deducted $350 million off the top.

"Today was not the day for us to get this done," players' association president Derek Fisher said. "We were not able to get close enough to close the gap."

With superstars like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett standing behind him, union executive director Billy Hunter said the players' proposal would have made up at least $200 million per season — a sizable chunk of the $300 million owners said they lost last season.

"Our guys have indicated a willingness to lose games," Hunter said.

The sides are also still divided on the salary-cap structure.

Training camps were postponed and 43 preseason games scheduled for Oct. 9-15 were canceled on Sept. 24. Both sides said they felt pressure to work toward a deal with deadlines looming before more cancellations would be necessary.

Stern said the owners had removed their demand for a hard salary cap, were no longer insisting on salary rollbacks, and would have given players the right to opt out of a 10-year agreement after seven years. But the money split was always going to be the biggest hurdle in these negotiations, with owners insistent on the ability to turn a profit after the league said 22 of its 30 teams lost money last season.

"We want to and have been willing to negotiate, but we find ourselves at a point today where we in some ways anticipated or expected to be, faced with a lockout that may jeopardize portions if not all of our season," Fisher said.

After hardly budging off their original proposal for 18 months, owners finally increased their offer to players from 46 to 47 percent of BRI. It was then that the top negotiators discussed the 50-50 concept, and while Stern sounded disappointed that it didn't work, Silver was more frustrated.

"I am not going to get a good night sleep," he said. "After this afternoon's session, I would say I'm personally very disappointed. I thought that we should have continued negotiating today and I thought that there was potentially common ground on a 50-50 deal. I think it makes sense, it sounds like a partnership. There still would have been a lot of negotiating to do on the system elements, but I'm personally very disappointed."

On what both sides stressed was an important day, the owners' entire 11-man labor relations committee came to New York to meet with 11 players. They could still work something out before Monday's deadline, but neither side sounded optimistic.

"Right now, we had our committees, we gave it a really good run, and it didn't work," Stern said.

Hunter said the union would hold regional meetings with its players, set up workout centers and help in other ways. And many players — including Bryant, who has been in talks with an Italian team — will have to decide if they want to explore playing overseas.

And without a deal, the battle could go to the courts. Hunter said the union would have to consider decertification, and on Tuesday a federal court judge scheduled a hearing for Nov. 2 to hear arguments in the league's lawsuit against the players seeking a declaration that the lockout doesn't violate antitrust laws.

All things both sides hoped to avoid Tuesday.

"It wasn't to be, and we don't have any plans right now," Stern said.


  • NBA never learns
    Besides the major city markets, NBA basketball on the whole is a lousy sports ticket investment. If you've owned Pacers season tickets (and I have) you know how many of the teams dog it through the regular season, giving you $10 worth of entertainment for a $100 ticket. The salaries paid (while not the players' fault) are ludicrous in this or any economy for the effort you don't see put out by most of the NBA players.

    Losing the NBA season will fast become an afterthought in Indiana where we have a variety of HS and College basketball games to watch or attend every night.

    Here's hoping the NBA puts a hard cap on teams to avoid the "Super Team" situation you have today and allow the smaller market teams a level playing field to sign good players and be competitive.

    Consider how the NFL's parity makes every year a surprise as to what teams are the best. The NBA is the same old/same old story every year with 3-4 super teams capable of winning the championship.

  • Where are the Pacers' Championship rings??
    At least the Colts have won a Superbowl. The NBA Pacers have not played well since the Reggie years and have made more news (for a few lawbreakers)as an embarrassment to the City than something we should be proud of. They should have never built Conseco - there was nothing wrong with Market Square and now if they leave, we're really stuck, but personally they can go somewhere else if someone will have them.
  • Who cares?
    The Pacers will leave Indianapolis anyways. Look at what the city offered the Colts versus what the city has offered the Pacers...

    If I were Simon I would take the franchise to another city because of this horrible treatment...
    • Not so fast my friend...
      I have to take issue with the assertion that a cancelled NBA season would cost Indianapolis $55 million. Unlike events such as the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, 500, Brickyard, etc. the Pacers draw an overwhelmingly local crowd to their game. Sure, there are people that come from more than an hour or so away but they are a small portion of the audience relative to "national" events. How many people on a Wednesday night in February come from outside of the Indy metro area to see the Pacers play a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves? Very few. So, a huge chunk of that $55 million dollar figure is going to be redirected by local residents to spending on other local goods, services, etc. It may bring more people to a concert, movie theater, restaurant, etc. Or, maybe the unthinkable will happen and people will actually save some of that money they would have spent and we would see things like local bankruptcies, foreclosures, etc. decrease. Another thing that most of these economic impact stories with sports forget is that a huge chunk of that "economic impact" actually goes to large corporations not even based in Indiana. Sure, there are a few more $10 an hour jobs but most of the pot of gold goes to a company that doesn't benefit Indy or Indiana at all.

      Will the Pacers not playing be a huge financial loss for the economy of the Indy metro area overall? No, don't believe the hype. There will be isolated businesses that will suffer from it but the overall metro economy will be just fine.

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