Lack of lockout progress puts 2011-2012 NBA season at risk: A fan’s take

The fate of the NBA season opener—as well as the season itself—may be at stake this weekend. The NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) will meet on Friday, Sept. 30 and try to save the Dallas Mavericks-Chicago Bulls season opener scheduled for Nov. 1. The parties have also pledged to continue their talks on Saturday and Sunday if any progress is made in Friday's discussions.

Due to the lack of progress that has been made so far during the lockout, the NBA canceled the first week of preseason games last Friday, Sept. 23. In order to save the regular-season opener from that same fate, the NBA and NBPA must make meaningful progress towards a deal this weekend.

Earlier this week, the two sides met for consecutive days for just the second time since the owners locked out the players on July 1. During their two-hour meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27, "concepts and ideas" were thrown around the room. At the conclusion of Wednesday's four-hour negotiation session, NBA Commissioner David Stern strongly suggested that the Mavericks-Bulls season opener was not the only regular-season game in jeopardy this weekend.

"Either we will make very good progress … or we won't make any progress and then it won't be a question of just starting the season on time, it will be a lot at risk because of the absence of progress," Stern said.

NBPA President Derek Fisher(notes) of the Los Angeles Lakers was not as extreme as Stern, but he did acknowledge "that if we can't find a way to get some common ground really, really soon, then the time of starting the regular season at its scheduled date is going to be in jeopardy big-time."

Tuesday's and Wednesday's bargaining sessions were limited to just the principal negotiators. Friday's meeting will be a larger one, including the NBA's 11-member Labor Committee, the NBPA's nine-member Executive Committee and other owners and players who choose to attend. With so much at stake—and so little time to get it done in—the owners and players need to put in a full eight-hour day on Friday.

Before the owners and players reconvene their talks Friday, it is likely that the two groups will meet separately with the principals of each side briefing their constituents on the current state of the talks.

At this time, the two sides remain far apart but are willing to continue discussing the issues as long there is reason to keep discussing.

"I can't say that common ground is evident, but our desire to try to get there I think is there," Fisher said. "We still have a great deal of issues to work through, so there won't be any magic that will happen this weekend to just make those things go away, but we have to put the time in."

Well, with the season opener and possibly the 2011-2012 NBA season hanging in the balance, they have to put the time in now.

If we are to take David Stern at his word, this weekend is the time for the two committees to "see whether they can either have a season or not have a season, and that's what's at risk this weekend."

Mark is a lifelong fan of the NBA who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has more than 100 articles about the NBA published on the internet. Mark also shares his random NBA musings on

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The 2011-2012 lockout-threatened NBA schedule: Fan's outlook

Information from Sports Illustrated's Start of season at stake in proposed weekend labor talks and Yahoo! Sports' NBA lockout heads to key stretch this weekend was used in this article.

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Updated Thursday, Sep 29, 2011