It’s official: Owners tell players there will be a lockout

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This is a sad day for the NBA.

We all knew it was coming. Frankly, everyone has been expecting this for a couple of years now, you could see the storm clouds gathering for that long. It doesn’t make it feel any better.

And things are only going to get worse in the short term. Not better.

Owners informed the players during a bargaining session Thursday that they will lockout players starting at midnight ET. Technically the owners still have to have a formal vote of the Labor Relations Committee, and they can’t do it until midnight, but in practice it’s done.

No further bargaining sessions are scheduled. Here is what union director Billy Hunter told Ken Berger of CBSSports:

“I’ve been anticipating this lockout for the last two or three years, and now it’s here.”

Hunter also said that the NBPA — the player’s union — does not plan to file to decertify, as the NFL players union did.

With the lockout in place, expect both sides to start playing a little hardball — the owners may well take back some of the concessions given in recent bargaining sessions. The players also will dig in their heels. The sides will likely move farther apart in an attempt to move the middle (the ultimate spot of a compromise) more in their direction.

At the final bargaining session, the players did not present a new proposal but again tried to sell the owners on savings from their last proposal, which would drop their percentage of “basketball related income” from 57 percent to 54.3 percent. NBA commissioner David Stern scoffed at the idea after the meeting, saying that the five-year deal would have raised the average NBA salary by $2 million per year ending at near $7 million a year. The owners’ proposal has been to essentially keep salaries flat for the next decade — the players would make a little less but would see nothing from increased revenues from the game. Their proposal would drop the BRI number the players get to closer to 40 percent in a decade. The players are not easily giving up that revenue from growth of the game.

The owners have said the system needs to change so smaller market teams can both compete and turn a profit. The players have said part of that is revenue sharing — the richest NBA teams share none of their local television revenue and only a portion (less than half) of their luxury box revenue.

The only question becomes will the sides be able to reach a deal before games are lost. That would mean, roughly, reaching a deal by Oct. 1 (there could be wiggle room there, but they need a month to have an abbreviated free agency and training camps).

That’s a long time away, but these two sides have been talking for two years and a lockout is where we are now. So it feels like a dark day.