The National Basketball Association postponed the start of training camps indefinitely and canceled 43 preseason games through Oct. 15, increasing the likelihood that the regular season won’t start as scheduled on Nov. 1.
“We have regretfully reached the point on the calendar where we are not able to open training camps on time and need to cancel the first week of preseason games,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said in an e-mailed statement. “We will make further decisions as warranted.”
Veterans would have been scheduled to arrive at training camps Oct. 3 under the collective bargaining agreement that expired July 1, the day the NBA locked out its players.
Though the lockout itself didn’t split either side enough to bring about a deal, the pressure will rise now that the players will be missing camps and, soon, paychecks, said Paul Haagen, who teaches contracts and sports law at Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina.
Under the previous deal, players generally would have been given an advance of $1,500 per week with the start of training camps and received their first of 12 semimonthly paychecks on Nov. 15.
“As soon as they start facing actual real changes, then you’re going to find out is this thing going to be short,” Haagen said in a telephone interview. “We’re about to find out.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern and union President Derek Fisher each declined to characterize about five hours of talks between the two sides at a Manhattan hotel yesterday, saying they are likely to meet again next week.
Fisher did say that the two sides were no closer to a deal than when they met last week.
“We’re not walking out of here with a deal right now,” Fisher told reporters. “We’ll keep working at it until we figure this out, but right now there isn’t anything to report.”
The two sides are negotiating how to split money from a league that had $4.3 billion in revenue last season, when Stern says the teams collectively lost about $300 million.
Both sides said this month that they’ve drawn closer to an agreement over splitting the money and that they continue to disagree over what salary-cap system to use under the new deal. Owners are looking to completely overhaul the system by creating a harder salary cap, which is a more definitive ceiling on what teams can pay players. The union is seeking to keep the previous system, including guaranteed contracts as well as several exceptions to the maximum payroll that allowed for high-dollar deals for many veteran players.
The only other time the NBA lost games due to a work stoppage was during the 1998-99 season. In 1998, the NBA announced the postponement of training camps on Sept. 24, canceling 24 preseason games. The remainder of the preseason was called off Oct. 5 and the league announced on Oct. 13 that the regular season would be delayed. The season didn’t start until February.
Several players, including All-Star guard Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets, have signed contracts to play in Europe during the lockout. Williams will be playing in Turkey; the Denver Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari and Milwaukee Bucks’ Chris Douglas-Roberts agreed to play in Italy; and the Nuggets’ Ty Lawson signed to play in Lithuania. All of those players have the right to return to the NBA once the lockout ends.
The Chinese Basketball Association said in August that it welcomed NBA free agents, though they wouldn’t be able to sign contracts to play in China without committing to an entire season. Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith, each of whom played for the Nuggets last season, accepted those conditions and won’t be allowed to return to the NBA until the end of the Chinese season, which runs into April.
“As time passes, guys are going to definitely defect,” Maurice Evans, a member of the union’s executive committee, told reporters this month. “You won’t be able to find the same combination of skill and talent and character that the 450 of us NBA players possess.”
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