NBA postpones start of training camps, cancels 43 preseason games

The NBA erased part of its season Friday, announcing it was postponing the start of training camps “indefinitely” because of ownership’s lockout of players and scrapping 43 preseason games — three each for the Lakers and Clippers — through Oct. 15.

Another bargaining session is planned for next week, but the NBA’s lockout is nearly three months old and negotiations seem to be stuck. With the NBA’s regular-season tipoff set for Nov. 1, we ask and answer some of the key questions about pro basketball’s labor fight:

When should we expect an agreement to get done?

Don’t hold your breath. NBA owners claim they lost $300 million last season and that 23 of 30 teams are losing money. They want players, who collected 57% of basketball-related income in 2010-11 — or $2.15 billion — to take a substantial cut in salary and promise to keep the total salary figure rolled back at a fixed $2 billion for at least five years. So far, the players have offered to accept a pay cut to 53% of the so-called “BRI,” but union leaders are concerned owners want to change how the “BRI” figure is defined.


How would owners change the definition of basketball-related income?

They can claim some ownership expenses, such as arena security, insurance and other bills required for the team to operate should be subtracted from their income ledger. The players argue such costs were not factored into “BRI” before and things should remain the same.

Isn’t the NBA dispute less muddied than the NFL lockout? And yet pro football settled without losing any regular-season games. Why?

The NFL fight between owners and players did feature complex arguments over side issues such as an expanded 18-game season, practice-time reductions, retired players’ healthcare and franchise-tag rules. But the NFL was enjoying massive profits and owners and players were bickering over how that surplus should be divided. This NBA labor battle is darkened by losses, with both sides struggling to establish the best economic system to adapt.

What are the big hot-button issues?

The players are willing to take a pay cut. But they want the owners to help solve the problems of unprofitable teams by committing to a bigger revenue-sharing plan as football does. The current system allows a profitable team such as the Lakers to enjoy the lion’s share of their reported $3 billion new local television deal with Time-Warner Cable, while a team such as the Memphis Grizzlies languishes in a small market incapable of generating such riches. NBA owners argue they can better address the deficits by paying players less and instituting a “hard” salary cap that will also help create more competitive equity in the league. But the players say many of the league’s financial problems can be solved if owners just split the pie with better revenue-sharing.

Will the season be canceled?

A portion of it, yes. My guess is no games will be played until January, maybe longer. The wild card is the National Labor Relations Board, which could act early in October on a players’ complaint the owners are not bargaining in good faith. The NLRB could accelerate a deal.


If no deal is reached soon, what happens next?

In the 1998-99 season a bitter labor dispute scrapped action until February. In 1998 the league canceled chunks of its season every few weeks. On Oct. 6 it canceled the entire preseason; Oct. 14: the first two weeks of the regular-season were canceled; Oct. 29: the first month of games were dropped; Nov. 25: Christmas games canceled. Those dates are a good blueprint for what might happen this fall.

How are the players reacting?

With varying degrees of concern. On Twitter Friday, Oklahoma City center Nazr Mohammed urged his 400-plus peers to remain in basketball shape, “Part of our job description is to be ready to play 48 [minutes] or none at all. Stay ready or somebody else will.” Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan tweeted players should start their own league. Meanwhile, Minnesota Timberwolves center Anthony Tolliver wrote, “I might go apply at Dairy Queen until this #NBAlockout ends. #freefood.”


Who was most hurt by Friday’s decision to cancel some preseason games?

Personnel at venues such as Fresno’s Save Mart Center, which lost its scheduled Oct. 9 Lakers-Warriors exhibition game, and those at Ontario’s Citizens Business Bank Arena, which will be deprived of an Oct. 12 Lakers-Hawks exhibition. In Ontario, Director of Marketing Sue Oxarart said a sellout crowd of 9,600 buying tickets from $12-$352 was expected. Three years ago the arena marked its opening with a Lakers exhibition. “We’re disappointed; the entire Inland Empire community looks forward to this game,” she said. “There are so many Lakers’ fans and basketball fans here. We look forward to having them back next year, and we’d also like the fans to know we have a Nov. 6 game between UCLA and Cal State San Bernardino and a Feb. 20 Harlem Globetrotters game on our schedule. It is basketball.”

Yes, and perhaps that’s all there will be this season. Times Researcher Robin Mayper contributed to this report.