This is it.
"Each side is going to meet with the mediator on Monday, and if there's a breakthrough, it's going to come on Tuesday," Stern said in an interview on Thursday. "And if not, I think that the season is really going to potentially escape from us, because we aren't making any progress ... how many times does it pay to keep meeting, and to have the same things thrown back at you?"
Basically, Stern is labeling Tuesday as the biggest day in the ongoing lockout saga. If a deal is not close by Tuesday afternoon, then the entire season is on the chopping block.
This lockout has, in the last few days, moved at a hundred miles an hour.
First, the league made the ultimatum that Monday was the drop-dead date for the opening fortnight of games. Then the rumours from the talks suggested a near breakthrough on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The feel-good atmosphere continued as both the league and the owners made noises that negotiations had gone well, and that a deal was imminent.
And now look where we are. Over a hundred games have been cancelled from the opening two weeks alone. Stern is now talking about cancelling not just the next few weeks of games, but also losing an entire season of NBA basketball.
That would be an unprecedented moment in NBA history.
Neither side will want to lose the season, but the owners are the side who, according to the players' union, are in favor of losing a season.
The Union also claim that the league would need to cancel two entire seasons before the players would be anywhere close to agreeing to their tough demands.
The 1998-99 season was the last to be affected by a work stoppage, with the league shortened to a 50-game season that began in January. Losing as many games again would be a serious problem for the game, but losing an entire season could have disastrous and long-lasting effects on the popularity of the sport.
The NHL cancelled the 2004-05 season thanks to a lockout, which caused fan support, TV audiences and sponsorship deals all took a hit for a number of years. A repeat of this in the NBA could see countless casual and fringe fans abandoning the sport for other interests.
Not to mention the part-time and indirect jobs that would be lost if a season was zapped.
Thousands work in restaurants and bars in the areas surrounding the various NBA arenas. Many have already been laid off due to cancelled preseason games, and more will go with the announcement that competitive games have gone too.
The coming five days are going to be the biggest of the lockout so far, a handful of days that could shape the rest of the lockout and the future of the NBA.
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