NBA commissioner David Stern spoke on WFAN Thursday afternoon and set the stage for yet another showdown with union officials this coming Tuesday. This time Stern is applying pressure, a lot of pressure:
"If we don't make it on Tuesday," Stern says, "my gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day."
Previously the league said that it would cancel the season in two increments and Stern is not saying that will change here. Just that if progress isn't made on Tuesday that it very well could be after Christmas when this thing finally gets worked out.
This is clearly an attempt to put pressure on the union. Thus far both sides seem to be well united, but the realization is that neither have started missing paychecks just yet. Stern's statement is throwing down the gauntlet not to well paid stars like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, but to the role players of the NBA that commonly operate on one year deals for much less than what the mega-stars make. Will it work? Only time will tell.
As fans we must come to the likely conclusion that for this thing to be settled, one of the sides is going to have to splinter. Right now neither side is pushing for a deal and neither side is interested in negotiating. Both sides are scheduled to sit down with a federal negotiator on Monday but it is unreasonable to think that he will be able to fix this mess in a one or two day session given that the two sides have been negotiating for over a month.
Even with optimism at an all time low, the league is busy making contingency schedules in the event that the lockout gets settled soon. The league won't be able to simply pick up and start playing the previous 82 game schedule because there would be an imbalance of games. In any short season schedule, interconference games will likely start to disappear first. During the lockout shortened season of 1998-99, each team only played six games against the other conference in a 50 game schedule.
One important thing to remember is that whenever the lockout does end, the league will have to have an abbreviated offseason to sign free agents and allow teams to get together.