NBA commissioner David Stern stayed true to his promise, cancelling the first two weeks of the 2011-12 regular season after the owners and players' union failed to reach the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement in a last-ditch effort in New York on Monday.
"The gap is so significant that we just can't bridge it at this time," Stern told reporters following a seven-hour negotiating session. "We certainly hoped it would never come to this."
"(Both sides are) very far apart on virtually all issues. ... We just have a gulf that separates us."
On Friday, the NBA reportedly told union officials it would not negotiate prior to Stern's Monday deadline unless the union accepted a 50-50 split of basketball-related income. But in a surprising development, both sides reconvened the past two days with hopes of getting a deal done.
However, that didn't happen, as cancellations include all contests scheduled through Nov. 14.
Stern said the cancellations guarantee the league will have a shortened season for the first time since the 1998-99 season, when a league-imposed lockout ended on Jan. 6, 1999, with teams playing 50 of 82 games.
“Despite extensive efforts, we have not been able to reach a new agreement with the players’ union that allows all 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship while fairly compensating our players,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
Added union president and Lakers guard Derek Fisher: "This is not where we choose to be. We're not at a place where a fair deal can be reached with the NBA."
For the Bulls, Monday's news means they'll miss the first seven games of the season, which included the Nov. 1 season opener in Dallas and the Nov. 5 home opener against Atlanta.
Although labor talks seemed like a roller-coaster ride, with virtually every bargaining session being the moment of truth, Bulls players such as C.J. Watson and John Lucas III remained hopeful that the entire season could be salvaged.
For the time being, basketball fans and arena workers, among others, appear to be the losers caught in the middle of a battle between billionaires and millionaires.