NBA cancels first two weeks of season

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(AP) - NBA Commissioner David Stern canceled the firsttwo weeks of the season Monday after owners and players were unableto reach a new labor deal and end the lockout.

Top negotiators for both sides met for more than seven hoursMonday, returning to bargaining about 14 hours after ending talksSunday night.

Stern said both sides are "very far apart on virtually allissues. ... We just have a gulf that separates us."

The cancellation includes all games scheduled to be playedthrough Nov. 14.

"Despite extensive efforts, we have not been able to reach anew agreement with the players' union that allows all 30 teams tobe able to compete for a championship while fairly compensating ourplayers," NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

With another work stoppage, the NBA risks alienating a fan basethat sent the league's revenues and TV ratings soaring during the2010-11 season. And the loss of the first two weeks of games - willhurt workers with jobs dependent on pro basketball's six-month-plusseason. A few teams have already trimmed their staffs and morelayoffs could be forthcoming.

Then there are those who don't work directly for an NBA team butwho still depend on the excitement the league brings to town.Ushers, security personnel, parking lot attendants, concessionworkers, restaurant employees and others all stand to have theirhours cut or join the country's 14 million unemployed.

The success of last season, on the court, at the box office andin the headlines, convinced many that the sides would never reachthis point.

But small-market owners were hardened after watching LeBronJames leave Cleveland for Miami, Amare Stoudemire bolt Phoenix forNew York, and Carmelo Anthony later use his impending free agencyas leverage to secure a trade from Denver to the Knicks. Theywanted changes that would allow them to hold onto their superstarsand compete for titles with the big-spending teams from LosAngeles, Boston and Dallas who have gobbled up the last fourchampionships.

Owners locked out the players July 1 when they couldn't reach adeal before the expiration of the old collective bargainingagreement. Opening night was scheduled for Nov. 1.

As the lockout drags on, Stern's legacy as one of sports' bestcommissioners is weakened. He turned 69 last month, and although hehasn't said when he will retire, he did say this will be his last CBA negotiation after nearly 28 years running the league.

He has insisted all along he wouldn't worry about the damage tohis reputation and that his only concern would be getting the dealhis owners need.

It's uncertain when that will be. The sides didn't agree untilJan. 6 in 1999, just before the deadline for canceling that entireseason. The league ended up with a 50-game schedule, often plaguedby poor play as teams were forced to fit too many games into toosmall of a window.

They could keep meeting now and agree to a deal much sooner thistime. Or perhaps the divide is still too great and they will decidethere's no reason to rush back to the table.

On Monday Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, owners PeterHolt of San Antonio, Glen Taylor of Minnesota and James Dolan ofNew York, and senior vice president and deputy general counsel DanRube met with union executive director Billy Hunter, presidentDerek Fisher of the Lakers and vice president Maurice Evans of theWizards, and attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner.

Though both sides have said they believe bargaining is the onlyroute to a deal, the process could end up in the courts. Eachbrought an unfair labor practice charge against the other with theNational Labor Relations Board, and the league also filed a federallawsuit against the union attempting to block it from decertifying.

Union officials thus far have been opposed to decertification, aroute the NFL players initially chose during their lockout. ButHunter has said it might eventually be considered.

Players say they have prepared for a shortened season for acouple of years, knowing it could be the inevitable outcome of adifficult negotiation. The owners' initial proposal in early 2010for a new CBA, calling for salary reductions and rollbacks, shortercontracts and a hard cap of $45 million, got the process off to atense start.

When the sides couldn't agree to a new deal before the old oneexpired on July 1, Hunter said it had been difficult for theplayers to overcome the setback the initial proposal caused.

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