After negotiating for three consecutive days, the NBA owners and players' union came out of Thursday's session apologizing to fans and the folks who will continue to be economically affected by the league-imposed lockout.
While the NBA -- which was without a sick (flu) commissioner David Stern on Thursday -- did not announce any further cancellations to the 2011-12 season, the tenor from the two sides, along with no breakthrough en route to an agreement, would lead one to believe that more games will be erased in the coming days.
"Ultimately, we were unable to bridge the gap that separates the two parties," deputy commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in New York. "We understand the ramifications of where we are. We recognize that we're disappointing millions of fans, not just (in) the United States, but around the world. We're having an impact on ... jobs in this country related to NBA basketball."
Having already canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, Stern told various media outlets last week that his "gut is that we won't be playing on Christmas Day" if significant progress towards a deal wasn't made Tuesday, when both sides met for 16 hours and seemed to be on the same page. Clearly, a disconnect began to build, and by Thursday afternoon, union president and Lakers guard Derek Fisher was pointing his finger at Silver and Spurs CEO Peter Holt, both of whom held the league's post-meeting press conference.
According to the NBA, it made a formal proposal of a 50-50 split of basketball-related income (BRI) and was rejected by the union, which offered to reduce their share of BRI from 53 percent to 52.5 percent.
"We were trying to look over the impact of a long-term deal and we could see our way in a 50 percent deal," said Silver, who added that both sides made progress on minor system issues in the three days of labor talks. "They made a slight move from 53 to 52.5 percent. That's where we broke off. They made it clear: If our position was we were unwilling to move beyond 50 percent, there was nothing to talk about."
Countered Fisher: "I want to make it clear that you guys were lied to earlier. It's that simple."
The players, who received 57 percent of BRI in the expired collective bargaining agreement, claimed that the league gave them an ultimatum -- take a 50-50 split of BRI or leave it. Choosing the latter of the two options, the players stated it wasn't in their best interest to accept the revenue split with key system issues unresolved.
Union executive director Billy Hunter said another bargaining session would require the precondition of the players accepting a 50-50 split, a tactic the NBA attempted in early October. Once again, the union said it has no plans of going through with the league's wishes.
"(We made) concession after concession after concession ... and it's just not enough," Hunter said. "We're not prepared to let them impose a system on us that eliminates guarantees, reduces contract lengths, diminishes all our increases. We're saying no way.
"We fought too long and made too many sacrifices to get where we are."
For fans, the frustration stems from how far the two sides have come and how close they appear to be. Sadly, negotiations probably only get worse from here.
Although Stern recently told reporters he will likely make cancellations in two-week increments, the threat of cancelling all games through Christmas Day -- a marquee date on the NBA schedule -- looms large. The players have constantly said they believe the league is attempting to "break the union."
While it would come as a shock and disappointment to many, if Stern axes every contest through Dec. 25, bypassing the two-week increments, he just might be able to sabotage the union, which has kept giving, giving and giving.
Hunter is right: The union's concessions are "just not enough," because the owners are going for it all, looking to hit a home run in the new bargaining agreement. This is now a game to see who caves first -- and the odds are not in the favor of Hunter, Fisher and Co., which includes 400-plus NBA players who are all set to miss their first paycheck no later than Nov. 15.