Exhibition games are being canceled and training camps have been postponed indefinitely. Now, it's up to the union to decide if the NBA owners are serious about jump-starting collective bargaining talks.
"We're waiting to hear back from them on whether there's any point to having another meeting," deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Thursday after the league canceled 24 preseason games.Granik, commissioner David Stern, union director Billy Hunter and union president Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks met Wednesday for one hour, their first sit-down in seven weeks.
Both sides have agreed to keep the substance of that discussion a secret. But since the owners walked out of the last formal session, the onus would seem to be on them to put something new on the table.
The union, which has refused to listen to any proposal including a "hard" salary cap, spent Thursday discussing its options. They must decide if the owners are going to show some movement, or if it would be more beneficial to await the outcome of the guaranteed contracts grievance hearing before arbitrator John Feerick.
If the union believes progress can be made, formal collective bargaining talks could resume next week.
"We're ready to meet tonight, if we can, to resume bargaining," Granik said.
The league on Thursday announced an indefinite postponement of training camps and canceled four days' worth of exhibition games Oct. 13-16.
Among the 24 games were neutral-site contests in Syracuse, N.Y.; Albany, N.Y.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Green Bay, Wis.; Honolulu; Buffalo, N.Y.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Baltimore.
If the dispute lasts past the first week of October, it seems certain the league will be forced to cancel regular season games because of a work stoppage for the first time in its history.
The regular season is scheduled to begin Nov. 3, and teams will need about four weeks to sign players, hold abbreviated camps and get ready for a season.
The league imposed the lockout July 1 after the sides failed to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement. The owners had the right to reopen the deal if the percentage of basketball-related income devoted to player salaries exceeded 51.8 percent.
Owners say that percentage has risen above 57 percent.
"The owners are all on the same page," Granik said, dismissing talk that there is a core of at least eight owners who would prefer to miss the entire 1998-99 season. "The agreement has to be something that makes long-term economic sense.
"Nobody wants to miss the whole season, but there are 29 owners that are willing to do so if they have to," Granik said.