As reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein, NBA commissioner David Stern is planning to threaten players with the cancellation of the entire 2011-12 season if the sides haven’t made major progress toward a deal by the end of the weekend when NBA labor talks resume on Friday according to sources close to the talks.
Although sources said the union views such an extreme stance as more of a negotiating tactic than a legitimate threat, Stern went almost that far in his comments to reporters in New York on Wednesday after a second straight day of negotiations.
Referring to meetings scheduled Friday that are expected to attract as many as 15 owners and star players such as the Heat’s LeBron James, Stern said: “I’m focused on let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that’s what’s at risk this weekend.”
In 1998-99, the only season in NBA history in which regular-season games were lost to a work stoppage, no deal was reached until Jan. 6, 1999, with a 50-game season finally starting on Feb. 6, 1999.
It remains to be seen if Stern’s remarks Thursday will have the intended “scare” effect and convince a players to accept a deal now on the premise that the NBA is not willing to stage a shortened season this time.
At a minimum, sources said, cancellation of regular-season games next week is a certainty if a deal isn’t within sight by Monday.
The league and the union did agree Wednesday to meet again Friday and likely through the weekend, but Stern warned that there are “enormous consequences at play” in coming days. Sources said that the sides need to have an agreement in principle by the middle of the next week at the latest in order to ensure that the entire 82-game regular season, scheduled to begin Nov. 1, can be played.
Two days’ worth of talks ended Wednesday to allow negotiators from both sides observer the Rosh Hashanah holiday that began Wednesday night at sundown.
Each side has summoned its respective bargaining committee to New York on Friday for the most important stretch of the lockout to date, pledging to meet through the weekend if progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement is being made.
NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has called for his executive committee members, as well as some of the league’s superstars such as Kobe Bryant and James, to meet Friday in New York, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard. Bryant, though, has been in Europe all week on a Nike promotional tour and is not expected to back in time for Friday’s session.
Sources told Broussard that Stern is also scheduled to meet with league owners Friday, with owners and players expected to end up in the same room for negotiations. If James attends, that could result in his first face-to-face meeting with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert since James left Cleveland for Miami last summer.
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