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On 10/06/2011 04:13 AM in NBA

Class warfare may be the answer in NBA lockout

By John McMullen, NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Most people spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy trying to circumvent a problem rather than tackling it head on.

The NBA's players and owners seem to have taken that tact during their ongoing labor negotiations and a Hail Mary attempt to end the ongoing lockout failed miserably on Tuesday, all but ensuring that actual games will be lost for just the second time in league history.

Commissioner David Stern, citing the lack of substantive progress, already announced that the remainder of the preseason will be canceled, and then spoke in ominous tones about the regular season:

"By Monday, we will have no choice but to cancel the first two weeks of the season."

The owners and players were trying to hammer out a deal in a dispute that has reached into its fourth month, and there is no firm indication as to when the sides will meet again.

"We were not able to make the progress that we hoped we would make," Stern said. "We were not able to continue the negotiations."

The split of basketball related income (BRI) remains the sticking point in the negotiations, with Stern saying the players wanted 53 percent and the owners countering with 47. The players, of course, had received 57 percent in the last collective bargaining agreement and the difference between 53 percent and 47 for the players is about $240 million per season.

"Today was not the day for us to get this done," NBPA president Derek Fisher said. "We were not able to get close enough to close the gap."

However, Stern added that in a "very, very small" group, which included himself and deputy commissioner Adam Silver, an informal 50-50 BRI split was proposed only to be deemed unacceptable by the players.

"At that point, it didn't seem to make a lot of sense to continue today by either side," Stern said.

The commissioner added that the owners had moved off their desire to have a hard salary cap and were negotiating with the players for a substitute system. Meanwhile, he also noted that sides previously agreed that guaranteed contracts would be authorized, and that over the weekend owners agreed that there would be no rollbacks of existing salaries.

The owners also offered a chance for the players to opt out of a 10-year labor deal after seven years, Stern said.

To be blunt, there simply isn't much left for the players to fight for.

Stern said it's unlikely the NBA would be able to have an 82-game season if it started later than November 1. Various arenas have already asked about scheduling events on days set aside for NBA games that might be canceled, Stern said, and there is also the matter of the league's TV partners and their schedules.

The league had estimated it will cough up $200 million by losing the preseason and hundreds of millions more for every two weeks of games. Based on current estimates of BRI, the players stand to lose about $350 million a month during the current standoff.

Despite those massive numbers, the millionaires continue to fight the billionaires over percentage points and neither side seems to have financial advisers with the testicular fortitude to paint this simple picture -- 47 percent of nothing, like 50 percent of nothing, is the same as 53 percent of nothing.

As bad as Tuesday seemed, however, it's often darkest just before dawn.

There is always hope, even in the worst of circumstances, and some have already speculated that Stern is waiting until next week to cancel regular season games with the hope of pushing the union back to the bargaining table in the next few days.

A 50/50 "partnership" has always been the perceived end game and although many union officials were upset that Stern publicly disclosed that offer, it may have been the prudent decision in an effort to rally the rank and file players against the superstars, who have taken a hardline in negotiations.

In a letter to their players, obtained by ESPN, Fisher and Union head Billy Hunter wrote that a 50/50 split of revenue "is simply not a fair split," and vowed "we will hold firm until we can get a fair deal. ... It was right stand to make, for ourselves and ... generations to follow."

That type of thinking may have traction with players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett, who have banked 10s of millions over the years, but could be a hard sell to an end of the roster guy trying to make the mortgage payment.

Heck, class warfare works in politics. Maybe it will work in the NBA.

10/05 11:16:44 ET