Sport officially reduces 2011-12 season

Early morning optimism that NBA players and owners might reach an agreement Friday to end the sport’s lockout dissolved into the cancellation of two more weeks of games — meaning the season won’t start until December at the earliest — after talks between the parties reached another impasse.

In announcing the new set of scrapped games, NBA commissioner David Stern said that under no circumstances would the NBA play a full season in 2011-12.

Though the NBA doesn’t have a significant broadcast TV presence each season (via its deal with ABC) until Christmas Day, cablers ESPN and TNT are affected from the outset, along with NBA-owned NBA TV. Overall, ESPN and TNT had 127 regular-season game broadcasts scheduled entering the 2011-12 season.

In addition, local channels such as Los Angeles’ Fox Sports West, for which NBA games rep the top-rated programming, will feel the void this week: The Lakers’ season had been scheduled to start Tuesday.

ESPN.com reported that while gaps have been bridged on secondary issues, no agreement had been forged on how basketball-related income is distributed. Though the two sides may not seem very far apart in their demands, the obstacle to a deal remains significant.

Players, who were guaranteed 57% in the last collective bargaining agreement, are holding ground at no less than 52%. Owners, who earlier this year had been asking to lower the players’ share to 47%, are now pushing for a 50-50 split.

Talks ended in Friday afternoon in New York, with no new meetings between the parties scheduled.

“We’ve lost $200 million. We’re going to lose several hundred (million) more,” Stern said. “The next offer will reflect the extraordinary losses that are piling up now.”

On Oct. 10, Stern canceled the first two weeks of the 2011-12 regular season, which had been scheduled to start Nov. 1.

The last time the NBA canceled games because of labor conflicts, the league played a 50-game season in 1998-99.

Late Thursday, NBA players’ union exec director Billy Hunter had said at a news conference that “we’re within striking distance of getting a deal,” while Stern commented that “there are no guarantees that we’ll get it done, but we’re going to give it one heck of a shot.” Within 24 hours, feelings had reverted back to pessimism.

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