With the NBA having already cancelled the first two weeks of the 2011-12 regular season, for fans still upset with the league's decision, there could be more disappointment on the way, according to NBA commissioner David Stern. Speaking to various media outlets on Thursday, Stern warned the entire season could be in jeopardy if significant progress isn't made by early next week.
"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 told NBA.com's David Aldridge. "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?
"Hopefully by Tuesday, aided by the mediator, they'll be ready to make a deal. Certainly I'll bring my owners ready to make a deal."
One of the high-quality Nov. 1 opening night matchups was supposed to be in Dallas, where the Bulls were scheduled to take on the defending NBA champion Mavericks. However, that contest -- along with all games scheduled through Nov. 14 -- was axed on Monday after the owners and players' union failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement.
Now, it's quite possible that we may have to wave goodbye to the slate of games on Christmas Day, when the Bulls are scheduled to face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
"If we don't make it on Tuesday, my gut -- this is not in my official capacity of canceling games -- but my gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day," Stern said.
Following Monday's seven-hour bargaining session, Stern told reporters that further cancellations would likely come in two-week increments. But with the two sides seemingly going nowhere in negotiations, he's doing his best to get the league's message out and amp up the pressure on the union.
In addition, even after three-plus months of labor talks, it appears that both sides still aren't on the same page.
“I don’t think (the owners) are negotiating in good faith," union executive director Billy Hunter told Mike Francesa on New York’s WFAN. "That’s what’s frustrating."
Countered Stern: "We're ready to sit down and make a deal. I don't believe that the union is."
In the end, this will come down to which side blinks first. And if it were former Bull Dennis Rodman's choice, the players would be the ones to "bow down."
"In 1999 we (were locked out) and we missed half the season. The owners bowed down then. They gave the players everything," the five-time NBA champion said. "I think the players should do the same thing for the owners because today most of these teams are losing money. I'm not taking the owners' side. Most players don't give a damn about the game. They want the money and all of a sudden they want unity.
"It's not the players' fault, it's the owners' fault and I think (the players) should give a little bit. And that way, things will move on."
If only it were that easy.