Talks between NBA players and owners broke down on Thursday, raising the prospect that more games will be cancelled after the two sides failed to resolve financial differences.
Thirty hours of negotiations over the past three days, under the eye of federal mediator George Cohen, had raised some hopes that the parties had made progress toward agreement over two key issues: the division of revenues and a salary cap system.
"Ultimately we were unable to bridge the gap that separates the two parties," NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said. "We understand the ramifications of where we are. We're saddened on behalf of the game."
NBA commissioner David Stern -- who missed Thursday's meetings with the flu -- has already wiped out the scheduled first two weeks of the campaign, 100 games from November 1-14.
Union president Derek Fisher said the players are aware of the seriousness of the situation, noting that people such as arena workers are also dependent on the season.
Stern had already indicated that if some sort of deal could not be reached this week, games in December could be in jeopardy.
The cancellations to date are costing players some $170 million in salaries.
Silver said labor committee members would talk to Stern on Friday about the schedule.
Owners locked out players on July 1, after the expiration of the prior collective contract, but the two sides have been unable to reach terms on a new agreement.
One stalemate is over how to divide some $4 billion in revenues.
Under the last contract, players were guaranteed 57 percent of basketball-related income, and each side had proposed receiving 53 percent of basketball-related income in a new deal.
Silver said the league formally proposed a 50-50 split on Wednesday, but that was insufficient for the players union.
Players said the owners essentially told them the 50-50 split was a take-it-or-leave-it offer, and said management had misrepresented the facts of the negotiations.
"We've spent the last few days making our best effort to try and find a resolution here," Fisher said.
"Not one that was necessarily a win-win. It wouldn't be a win for us. It wouldn't be a win for them.
"But one that we felt like would get our game back ... and get our guys back on the court, get our vendors back to work, get the arenas open, get these communities revitalized."
"And in our opinion, that's not what the NBA and the league is interested in at this point.
"They're interested in telling you one side of the stories that are not true and this is very serious to us," Fisher said. "This is not in any way about ego. There are a lot of people's livelihoods at stake separate from us."
Billy Hunter, executive director of the union, said players had offered "concession after concession after concession ... and it's just not enough."
Cohen said in a statement that the two sides remained separated on "core issues" and that he and fellow mediator Scot Beckenbaugh felt "that no useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time."
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