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Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011

NBA cancels first two weeks of this season

AP

NEW YORK — NBA commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the season Monday after owners and players were unable to reach a new labor deal and end the lockout.

Top negotiators for both sides met for more than seven hours Monday, returning to bargaining about 14 hours after ending talks Sunday night.

Stern said both sides are "very far apart on virtually all issues. . . . We just have a gulf that separates us."

The cancellation includes all games scheduled to be played through Nov. 14.

"Despite extensive efforts, we have not been able to reach a new agreement with the players' union that allows all 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship while fairly compensating our players," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

With another work stoppage, the NBA risks alienating a fan base that sent the league's revenues and TV ratings soaring during the 2010-11 season. And the loss of the first two weeks of games — will hurt workers with jobs dependent on pro basketball's six-month-plus season. A few teams have already trimmed their staffs and more layoffs could be forthcoming.

Then there are those who don't work directly for an NBA team but who still depend on the excitement the league brings to town. Ushers, security personnel, parking lot attendants, concession workers, restaurant employees and others all stand to have their hours cut or join the country's 14 million unemployed.

The success of last season, on the court, at the box office and in the headlines, convinced many that the sides would never reach this point.

But small-market owners were hardened after watching LeBron James leave Cleveland for Miami, Amare Stoudemire bolt Phoenix for New York, and Carmelo Anthony later use his impending free agency as leverage to secure a trade from Denver to the Knicks. They wanted changes that would allow them to hold onto their superstars and compete for titles with the big-spending teams from Los Angeles, Boston and Dallas who have gobbled up the last four championships.

Owners locked out the players July 1 when they couldn't reach a deal before the expiration of the old collective bargaining agreement. Opening night was scheduled for Nov. 1.

As the lockout drags on, Stern's legacy as one of sports' best commissioners is weakened. He turned 69 last month, and although he hasn't said when he will retire, he did say this will be his last CBA negotiation after nearly 28 years running the league.

He has insisted all along he wouldn't worry about the damage to his reputation and that his only concern would be getting the deal his owners need.



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