Nov. 1 was going to be a fun night. The Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and the rest of the Mavericks were finally going to get their championship rings (or whatever) and Mark Cuban was going get a banner raised to the rafters in Dallas. Then the Mavericks were going to take on the Chicago Bulls in what would be a fun matchup. Right as that ended, the next generation in the west — the Oklahoma City Thunder – were to take on older generation not ready to go quietly, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The NBA was going to open its new season that night in grand style.
Now, NBA arenas will be dark.
That’s not official, yet. But after labor negotiations went nowhere over the weekend, in the next couple of days you can expect the NBA will officially cancel at least another week and likely the rest of the NBA preseason schedule.
Actual regular season NBA games will not be far behind.
It’s going to take at about a month from the day the owners and players reach a handshake agreement to the first NBA regular season game. Today is Oct. 1.
Saturday’s labor talk went on for more than seven hours with no real progress — and they didn’t even address the biggest issue, the elephant in the room, how to divide up “basketball related income.” (What did they do for seven hours, watch college football and eat nachos?) The two sides plan to meet again Monday and Tuesday, but both sides keep using phrases like “far apart” and “gulf” to describe the talks. There is no reason to expect a big breakthrough in the immediate future.
And if there isn’t regular season games will be postponed. The league will hold off as long as it can on making that formal announcement, but it’s going to come. Brace yourself for it.
It is possible for the season to be delayed a couple weeks and still get in the full 82 games. That, however, means you think there will be a breakthrough in the next couple of weeks that will allow the clock to start toward a regular season.
Team facilities can open a few days after a handshake labor deal is reached. But it is going to take a couple of weeks for the attorneys to hammer out the language and for both the owners and players to formally approve the deal. Then there will be a condensed training camp with a frenzied free agent season on top of it. Each team will have a handful of exhibition games. Then the season will start. In 1999 during the last lockout, that all took a month.
Both players and people tied to ownership I’ve spoken to have thought that there would be a partial season. Nobody thinks the whole thing will be lost (that conversation is for around Christmas if we are still locked out).
What is clear after this crucial weekend of talks is the owners really want to pressure the players — the first missed player paycheck would not be until Nov. 15. Meanwhile the players are better prepared and more unified than they were last lockout. Neither side is breaking, neither is really willing to move off their current lines very far. There is not a spirit of compromise.
Without that spirit, there may not be an NBA season at all.
But for now, just know the NBA season will not start on time.