NBA commissioner David Stern is hinting he will play Scrooge and take away Christmas Day basketball if no new collective bargaining agreement is reached by Tuesday.
That day is critical because the players and owners will hold their first negotiating session with a federal mediator to take steps to end the lockout.
“Right now, Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, just before my owners come into town, having brought in the labor relations committee and [NBA Players Association head] Billy (Hunter) having brought in his executive committee, it’s time to make the deal,” Stern said to the Associated Press on Thursday. “If we don’t make it on Tuesday, my gut — this is not in my official capacity of canceling games — but my gut is that we won’t be playing on Christmas Day.”
Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season last Monday after the two sides could not reach an agreement in a seven-hour session. As the deadlock proceeds, the prospect of revenue losses hang over both sides, though the assumption is that the players, most of whom are not superstars, will suffer more during an impasse — and that could be the reason for Stern’s latest hint.
Christmas Day has traditionally been billed as the NBA’s first big day of the season. This year the defending champion Dallas Mavericks are scheduled to take on LeBron James and the Miami Heat in a rematch of the NBA finals.
But that possibility does look less and less likely as the two sides remain far apart on revenue sharing and a salary cap structure. The way Stern has chosen to negotiate, saying the offers will only get worse from this point on as owners’ losses mount, makes it harder to imagine an offer that the players will accept.
Having mediator George Cohen in the room could perhaps bring some reason to the negotiations, which has been in short supply for three months.
When asked if Cohen has the ability to move the two sides closer, Stern replied, “I’m hoping he does, because I think that if we don’t make a deal by the time my owners meetings come in Wednesday and Thursday, after we’ve met with the mediator on Monday and then met with each other on Tuesday, then I despair,” Stern said.
“Because we will have lost two weeks for sure on our way to losing more games, offers will get worse, possibly on both sides, and the deal’s going to slip away from us, as may the season,” he added. “So this is the time to make a deal.”
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(Photo: AP Photo/David Karp)