Following two days of negotiations between ownership and union officials that produced little in the way of results, David Stern at long last made official on Monday night what many had suspected for months: the 11/12 NBA season will neither start on time nor feature a full 82 games.
Stern announced the cancellation of the season's first two weeks after a seven hour negotiating session that featured a smaller group including Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and Mo Evans. Over the weekend the two sides reportedly focused on structural issues rather than tackling the much-debated basketball-related income (BRI) split, but they made little progress and have no additional negotiating sessions planned at the moment. Seriously, guys?
For the Bucks, the cancellation officially wipes out three games at home (against the Knicks, Pacers and Suns) and four on the road (San Antonio, Charlotte, New Jersey and Philadelphia), though it's not clear if the remaining schedule would be retained or modified if an agreement was somehow reached in the next couple weeks. The lockout-shorted 1999 schedule was completely revamped after an agreement was reached in January, with teams playing a compressed, conference-heavy schedule that saw most teams play just six times against clubs from the opposite conference. As things stand now, the Bucks regular season opened would shift to November 16 in Minnesota and the home opener to Saturday, Nov 19 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
There had been some hope of a deal heading into the weekend after owners reportedly expressed a willingness to move to a 50/50 split of BRI from their previous insistence of players receiving roughly 47%. That would be down significantly from the 57% players received under the prior deal as well as the 53% that the Union had reportedly been willing to settle for coming into the weekend. However, that seemingly manageable difference--about $120 million out of total projected BRI of $4 billion next year--obscured the continuing structural issues that divide the sides. Namely, the owners at a minimum want a more punitive luxury tax system that would resemble a hard cap, while the players are trying to salvage the flexible soft cap system.
While the players' frustration with the owners' claims of financial hardship is understandable, the structural issues will make it difficult for many fans to have much sympathy for the union. Put simply, the union's hopes of maintaining the status quo protects much of what's clearly wrong with the NBA: bloated, long-term deals for the likes of the league's Eddy Currys and a financial system where only a handful of teams can blow through the luxury tax.
Those issues are particularly acute for small market teams like the Bucks, so if there's a silver lining to all this it's that the longer this drags on, the better the chance of the owners both getting the favorable BRI split needed to push more meaningful revenue sharing and "winning" the structural issues that could meaningfully improve the game itself. I won't go so far as to say either side has done anything to deserve fans' support, but selfishly I know which way I find myself leaning.