The owners and the NBA Players Association still have yet to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, and no sign of resolution is in sight. Much like the NFL did during its lockout over the summer, the NBA is enlisting the help of federal mediator George Cohen to oversee negotiations between both parties.
All reports still indicate that the owners and players are not close to an agreement, putting the season in serious jeopardy. The first two weeks of games have already been cancelled, and if a resolution isn’t agreed upon swiftly, many more contests could be erased as well.
The best-case scenario for the league would be for a new labor deal to be signed some time in early November, thus allowing for a brief free agency period and training camp before the games begin for real. While this outcome would save the majority of the season, it appears very unlikely at this point.
If labor peace takes a little more time but is settled in early December, what better way for the NBA to re-christen itself to fans than by opening the season on Christmas Day? Fans of the roundball would be glued to their TV sets to watch three marquee matchups as the Celtics head to the Big Apple to face the Knicks, the Heat travel to Dallas for an NBA Finals rematch, and the Bulls and Lakers meet in primetime in L.A.
A Christmas Day start still seems like wishful thinking however, meaning a new season would not begin until 2012. If the schedule got under way after Christmas, that means roughly half the season would be lost, but still allow for a competitive race for the playoffs.
Should a new deal take any longer than February to complete, the NBA may be looking at an opening around when the All-Star Game would be, which is currently slated for Feb. 27. During the NBA’s last lockout in 1998-99, the season did not begin until Feb. 5, nine days prior to when that season’s All-Star Game was originally scheduled. The NBA played a 50-game season that spring, but if the current CBA wasn’t agreed upon sooner, a schedule shake-up would be in order.
If neither side can agree on a new deal by March, NBA fans’ worst nightmare will come true: there will be no season. The NHL learned the hard way how crippling a full-season lockout can be, and the NBA certainly wants to avoid this at all costs.