Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Labor talks: Full NBA season later?

By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com

Both sides in the NBA labor negotiations agree that if the owners and players do not make significant progress in CBA talks soon, then logistics will dictate that the scheduled Nov. 1 start of the regular season will become impossible.

The assumption is that, like in the 1998-99 lockout, a delayed start to the season would lead to games being canceled. Is it possible, however, that a full season could simply start later and run deeper into the summer?

On Monday, commissioner David Stern did not rule this out.

"As we said to the players, everything is negotiable," Stern said after the sides met in small groups Monday in New York for about five hours. Yet, Stern added, "we haven't ever discussed this; it would be really great if we could start the season on time."

A shortened season has various drawbacks. Depending on how long it lasts, the loss of games can cut into ticket and corporate sponsorship revenues that the owners and players share. It can also affect TV revenues, which vary on both a national and local level, but are important to both the players and owners. It also is a stain on the league's brand. And if you ask the 1999 champion Spurs, it is also cause for rivals to question the meaning of short-season accomplishments. Shaquille O'Neal famously said the Spurs' title should be marked by an asterisk.

While there is merit in finding a way to play a full season, Stern was clear, however, that starting one after Nov. 1 would pose challenges.

"Given the building issues with our buildings now pressuring us to allow them to book dates [that are currently being held for NBA games under threat of cancellation], and given the schedule of our TV partners, and given the fact how much household viewing declines after our draft, I'm not sure, how easy that would be," the commissioner said Monday.

Owners and players are holding a a full bargaining session Tuesday, knowing if they fail to produce results, there may not be enough time left to avoid canceling regular-season games.

Union president Derek Fisher said Monday that a lot of signs pointed to Tuesday as "being a very huge day." His teammate Kobe Bryant was expected to take part, with Boston Celtics stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett among other players joining the union's executive committee.

Henry Abbott is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com who founded TrueHoop. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.