NEW YORK — No labour deal, no training camps and no telling what else the NBA could lose.
The lockout is about to start inflicting damage on the pre-season schedule — and neither players nor owners can say what will happen to the real games.
The league will cancel training camps and some exhibition games today after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with its players, a person with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because the league had yet to announce its plans.
Training camps were expected to begin Oct. 3, and the exhibition openers were set for Oct. 9.
But the cancellations, first reported by Yahoo Sports, became unavoidable after another meeting between players and owners Thursday failed to end the lockout, which began July 1.
While providing no details of the meeting, Commissioner David Stern acknowledged that “the calendar is not our friend” when it comes to keeping the season intact.
Stern said he had “no announcement to make today” regarding any postponements or cancellations, but they became a certainty with no breakthrough Thursday. Talks are not expected to resume until next week.
The league is at about the same point as when it postponed camps in 1998, the only time it lost games to a work stoppage. The decision then came on Sept. 24 for camps that were set to begin Oct. 5.
The regular season is scheduled to open Nov. 1, with the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks hosting the Chicago Bulls in the first game. Though both sides repeatedly have said there is still time for a deal that would leave the regular season unaffected, neither would say so Thursday — with union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers using nearly the same words as Stern about the coming weeks.
“I don’t have control of that part of it, that would be more of a Commissioner Stern, Adam Silver question in terms of logistics of starting the season on time,” Fisher said. “I’m not going to try and make a guess on that one. The calendar’s obviously not our friend, but we’re not going to give up on the process because of the time.”
Asked again if he thought things were far enough along to still believe in a Nov. 1 start, Stern said: “I don’t have any response to that. I just don’t. I don’t know the answer.”
Stern celebrated his 69th birthday Thursday but didn’t appear in a festive mood after meeting for about five hours with leaders from the union. He was joined by Silver, the deputy commissioner, Spurs owner Peter Holt, who leads the labour relations committee, and NBA senior vice-president and deputy general counsel Dan Rube. Fisher, executive director Billy Hunter, lawyer Ron Klempner and economist Kevin Murphy represented the union.
Those small groups had good talks in recent weeks, but things went poorly last Tuesday when they were rejoined by their full committees. Hunter said after that meeting that players planned to make a “significant” financial concession, only to find that owners refused to agree to their condition of leaving the current salary cap system as is.
Fisher said he didn’t believe Thursday’s talks, following a small meeting Wednesday that included Silver and staff members from both sides, moved the situation beyond where it was last week.
Stern said the owners’ labour relations committee would talk Friday, and both sides said they hoped to meet again next week.
“We’ll keep working at it until we figure this thing out, but right now there isn’t anything to really report or say,” Fisher said. “I don’t have any answers to any questions, other than we’ll keep working until we find some solutions.”