NBA’s labor fight approaches its biggest deadline

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NEW YORK (AP) - NBA owners, losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year, wanted an overhaul of the financial system to ensure themselves a chance to profit.

Players, believing they were the driving force behind record TV ratings and revenues, wanted to keep what they felt they deserved.

Now, negotiations that have lasted nearly two years need to end in the next few days.

Commissioner David Stern said he will cancel the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no agreement on a new deal by Monday, costing both sides money and driving away some basketball fans who might never come back.

“There is an extraordinary hit coming to the owners and to the players,” Stern said.

Not to mention the people who work in the game and the businesses that depend on it.

Stern has repeatedly said owners had two goals in the talks: a way to escape losses and a system where all teams could compete equally, noting that the NBA’s small-market clubs aren’t nearly as successful as Super Bowl champions like Indianapolis and Green Bay.

The problem, they said, was a system that guarantees players 57 percent of all basketball-related income, which includes gate receipts, broadcast revenue, in-arena sales of novelties and concessions, arena signage revenue, game parking and sponsorship dollars.

Another problem is a salary cap structure that allows teams to go well beyond it if they were willing to pay a luxury tax, which the big spenders in big markets such as Los Angeles and New York could easily afford.

The sides are still divided over the revenue split and the cap, and players insist they would rather sit out games than take a deal that would eliminate gains they fought for years ago.

“They’re going to sacrifice _ if they lose games, they miss money and all that. They feel they have to take a stand the same way players took a stand for them before they were here. It’s actually quite inspiring to listen to them articulate that,” said players’ attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who also represented NFL players during their four-month lockout this summer.

“I think they saw how the NFL players stood together through tough times and ended up with a deal the NFL players thought was fair. They’re thinking they’re going to do the same thing.”

The cost, for both sides, would be staggering.

Stern predicted a $200 million loss just for the cancellation of the NBA’s entire preseason schedule. If arenas are dark on Nov. 1, when the real games are supposed to start, the damage will be even greater.

“They’re in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We’re not prepared to share the specifics. But, yes, we’ve spent a lot of time with our teams walking through those scenarios of lost games, and the damage is enormous, will be enormous.”

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