After all of the optimism surrounding the past two days of NBA lockout negotiations, Friday's talks in New York ended--somewhat briefly, compared to Wednesday's marathon session--with a much less positive outlook. League commissioner David Stern subsequently announced that league would cancel an additional two weeks of regular-season games, wiping the November schedule clean, an anticipated measure.
"Our games are cancelled through," said a grim-looking Stern, in contrast to his jovial demeanor after Wednesday's session. "The end of the month of November."
"It's not practical, possible or prudent," he continued. "There will not be a full NBA season."
No further bargaining sessions are scheduled for this weekend--Lakers guard Derek Fisher, the players' association president, told NBA.com he was flying back to Los Angeles--or otherwise. Friday's breakdown occurred because of the continued impasse over the division of basketball-related income--and the animus between the two sides apparently returned.
Union executive director Billy Hunter claimed Stern was "snookering" the media when the commissioner confirmed he was prepared to make a major economic move Friday.
"What he was trying to do was position himself on those other system issues (such as the luxury tax and mid-level exception) so he could get his number on BRI," said Hunter. "It appears that more we give on the system, we may be painting ourselves into a corner."
"They got to the place again where it was, '50-50, take it or leave it,'" he continued. "Today, we're leaving it, like we left it last week.
"Derek and I may it clear that we could not sell a 50-50 deal to our membership, not with the system."
Added Fisher: "We've dropped our BRI percentage from 57 percent to 52.5.
"Right now, it's still not enough for them to feel that this deal should be closed," continued the veteran guard, who cited "artificial pressure" as a reason to not rush through a deal that would last his constituents 10 more years. "We're still not sure if they're at 50 or they're at 47.
"Today just wasn't the day."
Stern confirmed that no further bargaining sessions are scheduled.
"I'm not going to project future negotiations," he said. "We've had, until this afternoon, several good days of give-and-take."
"We've made some major progress on length of contract," the commissioner continued. "We spent a fair amount of time talking about revenue sharing today.
"We made a fair number of concessions."
The commissioner revealed his take on how the negotiations ended for the day.
"Billy Hunter said he wasn't willing to go a penny below 52 percent," he said. "He closed up his books and walked out of the room."
"We were at 47," Stern added. "Today, our offer was 50."
Predictably, Hunter's view on the situation was very different.
"We did what it was the league said they needed," he said. "Their eyes got bigger and they wanted more and more and more, so finally, we had to shut it down and say, 'it can't be.'"
"Our number was our number," Hunter continued. "We just couldn't bridge the gap."
"I know that we have gotten a deal by this weekend, it was very likely, highly probable that we could have gotten a full season."
Ominously, Stern indicated the league's next offer--when the two sides meet again--will be less favorable.
"We're going to have to recalculate," said Stern.
"We've lost approaching 200 million," he continued. "We'll lose several hundred million dollars more."
"You can assume that our offer will change to reflect the changed economic circumstances."
So, despite progress on significant system issues, such as the mid-level exception and even some movement on the luxury-tax policy, it appears that if not back to square one, the two parties are again at odds, with conflicting opinions on their respective stances. One thing, however, is for certain, as Stern glumly summarized.
"The amount of dollars lost to the owners is extraordinary and the amount of dollars lost to the players is also extraordinary," said the commissioner. "In the short run, the owners will not be able to make it back and I know for a fact, in the short run, the players will not be able to make it back, and probably will never be able to make it back."
Neither will the dozens, even hundreds of people employed by the league and its teams or the people making their livelihoods based on games being played, not to mention the fans currently being deprived of NBA basketball.