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 N.B.A. Talks Stall and More Games Are Canceled

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PostSubject: N.B.A. Talks Stall and More Games Are Canceled   Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:21 pm

Talks sputtered, games disappeared and frustrations simmered anew Friday afternoon when N.B.A. owners and players moved to the precipice of a deal, then squandered the moment. Any hope for a full season died when the negotiations did.
Commissioner David Stern immedi[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]ately canceled the rest of the November schedule and declared that an 82-game season was now irretrievably out of reach. League officials said they needed a deal this weekend to have a chance of restoring lost games.

“It’s not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now,” Stern said, looking long-faced after a six-hour bargainin[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]g session that once held such promise.

No new meetings are scheduled.

Owners and players had methodically worked their way through numerous so-called system issues this week and had tentative agreements on most of them. But the talks collapsed as soon as they turned their attention back to the thorniest issue of all: division of league revenues.
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The N.B.A. restated its offer of a 50-50 split. The union restated its request for 52.5 percent. Neither side budged. The meeting ended.

After nearly 87 hours spent at the bargaining table this month, spread across 11 meetings, the parties were back were they began: hopelessly divided and at odds. This time, it was Stern who accused Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director, of walking away — a reversal from previous breakdowns when the union blamed the owners.

“Billy Hunter said that he was not willing to go a penny below 52, that he had been getting many calls from agents,” Stern said. “And he closed up his book and walked out of the room.”

Stern spoke after Hunter had left. The union did not immediately respond to the accusation.

Earlier, Hunter said the owners had essentially issued an ultimatum: “It was ‘50-50, take it or leave it.’ And we just said, ‘Well, today we’re leaving it, like we left it last week.’ ”

The economic divide alw[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]ays promised to be the toughest to bridge, even as the parties found agreement on other key issues. The owners are asking the players for the equivalent of a $280 million pay cut from last season, when they earned 57 percent of the league’s revenue. The players’ request for 52.5 percent represents a $180 million reduction.

The players have also agreed to shorter contracts, a more punitive luxury tax and several other new restraints on team spending.

“So we think we gave more than enough,” Hunter said. “And that’s what we constantly said to them: ‘We did what it was you said you needed. We did it. O.K.?’ And now all of a sudden, every time we do it, it’s like their eyes got bigger and they want more and more and more. So finally, you just have to shut it down and say, ‘It can’t be.’ ”

That bitter ending, on the lockout’s 120th day, stood in stark contrast to the smiles and quips and cautious optimism that characterized both sides just one night earlier. They had been making steady progress on the noneconomic issues, leading both Hunter and Stern to suggest that a resolution was in sight.

The N.B.A. even began advising arena officials across the country to hold dates in late April, to extend the regular season and complete an 82-game schedule.

“We held out that joint hope together,” Stern said, “but in light of the breakdown of talks, there will not be a full N.B.A. season under any circumstances. And I say that with apologies to the municipalities in which we play our games, to the workers who earn their living in our buildings, and from businesses around the buildings.”

The month of canceled games represents about $400 million lost to the players and a roughly equal amount for the owners. About $200 million was forfeited when the preseason was canceled. The season was supposed to start Nov. 1. The players will miss their first paychecks around Nov. 16.

Without an 82-game season, the N.B.A.’s revenue will decline from the projected $4 billion. Thus, there be less for everyone to split when they finally make a deal. That reality could impact the negotiations, with the league possibly reducing its offer and backing away from tentative agreements on the system issues.

“We’re going to have to recalculate how bad the damage is,” Stern said, predicting that the league’s next offer “will reflect the extraordinary losses that are starting to pile up now.”

This is the fourth time talks have broken off this month. The three previous times, the parties returned to the table within days, making incremental progress with each resumption. It is too soon to tell whether they will repeat the pattern this time, but their lawyers will meet next week — in a federal court room, for a hearing on the N.B.A.’s lawsuit against the union.[url=][You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
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