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The 2011 NBA regular season is in serious jeopardy of not starting on time as the lockout continues late into September. The 2011 season is scheduled to tip-off on November 1, as last season’s champions, the Dallas Mavericks, are set to host the Chicago Bulls. As the days march on, that start date looks less and less likely to be accurate.
With players and owners still in disagreement over the new collective bargaining agreement, training camps and the first week of preseason games, from October 9-15, were both cancelled Friday afternoon. Players were scheduled to report to training camp on October 3.
“We have regretfully reached the point on the calendar where we are not able to open training camps on time, and need to cancel the first week of preseason games,” Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We will make further decisions as warranted.” This is unfavorable news for NBA fans, as the Summer League was already cancelled.
The Summer League serves as a venue for coaches to evaluate the talent level of rookies and young bench players. While the Summer League is not integral to having an NBA season, the combined cancellations do not provide hope for a prompt start. The only time the NBA season did not start on time due to a work stoppage was during the 1998-99 season, where the regular season was cut to 50 games.
The main issue of the 1998 lockout was that owners wanted to cut player salaries and set a salary cap because player salaries were significantly taking away from earnings. During negotiations in 1998, the problem wasn’t directly dealt with. While players’ salaries were capped between $9 million and $14 million, each party agreed to institute a soft cap.
This allowed teams to exceed the cap and pay players as much as they wanted if the teams paid a luxury tax to the NBA on the player’s salary. That decision to allow an exception is becoming a big problem 12 years later, and owners want to decrease salaries and set a hard cap.
The hard cap would prevent teams like the Los Angeles Lakers from having a $91 million payroll, when the salary cap is $57.7 million. The Lakers dish out $17 million more than the Orlando Magic, the team with the second largest payroll. Unlike smaller teams, the Lakers have a huge fan base to draw from, and can generate the revenue needed to pay the luxury tax.
There is a big push for the hard cap from smaller market teams like the Golden State Warriors, who are finding it hard to compete because they can’t pay high level talent what teams like the Lakers can pay. However, installing a hard cap would decrease every player’s salary, an issue the players are not willing to concede to at this moment.
The belief of the players is that they only earn a small piece of the money pie, and the owners want them to have an even smaller piece. It isn’t shocking to see that money is the main component for the cause of the lockout. However, owners and players need to come to an agreement soon before they lose something they both couldn’t exist without: a fan base.