Be Ready For Lockout: Players, Owners ‘Far Apart’

After two days of negotiation and information exchange, there is just one thing the NBA and the NBPA can agree on:

A new collective bargaining agreement is not close to happening and a lockout seems more and more imminent.

“Both sides have moved, but we’re not anyplace close to a deal,” David Stern told the Associated Press, which noted he used the term “far apart” five times during his eight-minute meeting with the media.

“I’m hopeful,” NBPA vice president Roger Mason, Jr. told Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York. “But right now the gap is pretty wide as far as the league and the latest proposal that they gave us, and what we’re willing to do as players.”

The two sides have had plenty of discussions and know the issues. Mason acknowledged that the main disagreements and negotiations center around the owners’ desire to dramatically cut back salaries and implement a hard salary cap. In effect, the NBA is trying to install the NFL’s hard cap system in the league. The players have been very resistant to that and do not seem to be budging.

As the June 30 deadline approaches, the two sides are still far from reaching an agreement.

The good news is the two sides are willing to meet again. In that sense, there is still some hope that a long lockout can be avoided. The owners and the union will meet Tuesday in Miami (if there is a Game Seven in the Finals) or in New York and then again on Friday. Talking is a sign of some progress even if it does not turn out a deal is made.

Both sides seem to understand the urgency of the situation. Not only are they racing against the June 30 deadline, when the collective bargaining association expires, but also the two sides are racing to keep the momentum coming out of these Finals and the 2011-12 season.

“We can have that level of urgency and I think we do,” Stern said to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s why actually we’re scheduling two meetings for next week. Because we know the 30th itself is a time that if we don’t have a deal things will begin to deteriorate at a faster place. We very much feel the weight of a deadline. We have enough time to make a deal if the parties want to make a deal.”

Completing a deal by June 30 is not a necessity, but it will become increasingly important as time goes on.

The rush to get something done and meet is based on the goal of avoiding the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. On July 1, the owners’ motivation to get a deal done decreases dramatically as they seem happy to let this thing go into the season, where they apparently stand to lose less money. The players (and the fans) certainly do not want that. The players’ willingness to settle and deal grows the closer we would get to that next deadline — the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

Hopefully it will not go out that long. But both sides seem to be digging in.

“I think one of the owners indicated at the conclusion of today’s meeting that he was very pessimistic as to whether or not they’d be able to reach an accord between now and the end of the month, and I’m forced to share that sentiment,” union executive director Billy Hunter said. “I think maybe it’s going to be a difficult struggle.”

A lockout is seeming more and more inevitable at this point. The question is: how long will it last and will it eat into the season? Those are questions to be answered later.

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About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily