Stern cancels first two weeks of regular season

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2011 - 12:00 AM

The Wolves will lose six games.

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NBA Commissioner David Stern

Photo: Mary Altaffer, Associated Press

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The NBA canceled the regular season's first two weeks Monday night, after owners and players remained what Commissioner David Stern called "very far apart on virtually all issues" in their negotiations toward a new labor agreement.

By doing so, the league says it will cancel -- not postpone -- 100 games through Nov. 14, although the NBA Players Association's Billy Hunter said games could be rescheduled if an agreement is reached in the coming weeks.

If they indeed are gone, that means the Timberwolves will lose home games against Atlanta, Toronto, Phoenix and Sacramento and road games at Philadelphia and New Jersey in a shortened season.

That also means, for example, that Michael Beasley -- the Wolves' highest-paid player next season at $6.26 million -- will lose more than $458,000 if his team opens Nov. 16 against Milwaukee at Target Center.

And at this point, that's a very BIG if.

Somebody asked Wolves player representative Anthony Tolliver if he and his teammates are ready for canceled games and missed paychecks.

"If anybody isn't ready, it's their fault," Tolliver said by phone from Houston, his offseason home. "Everybody has been talking about this for a long time. We've all had a ton of meetings and been told to be prepared to miss games if we're going to get a fair deal. Obviously, the owners are playing chicken, thinking we'll give in at the last minute because they have leverage. We're not going to.

"We feel we have to hold out until we get a fair deal. Unfortunately, that's not happening right now."

NBA executives, including Wolves owner Glen Taylor, and NBA Players Association leaders met for more than 11 hours in New York on Sunday and Monday, but they couldn't bridge what Stern called a "gulf" that separates the two sides.

Each side wants 53 percent of all league basketball-related income. The players received 57 percent in the last agreement.

They also can't agree on such system issues as the length of the agreement, player contract lengths, player raises, team luxury tax penalties and the mid-level exception.

The NBA hasn't had a regular-season work stoppage since 1998-99, when the 82-game season was shortened to 50 games because of a lockout created largely by the $126 million contract young superstar Kevin Garnett signed with the Wolves.

With another stoppage, the NBA risks alienating a fan base that sent league revenues and TV ratings soaring last season. And the cost of cancellations would be staggering. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA would lose hundreds of millions of dollars; Hunter, the union executive director, estimated players' losses at $350 million each month they are locked out.

Wolves rookie Derrick Williams left college last spring after his sophomore season at Arizona knowing that his first NBA season might never be. On Monday night, he suggested via Twitter that he might now seek his first professional paycheck in Europe or Asia until a new labor agreement is reached.

Tolliver said Stern's announcement was anything but a surprise. "We've been preparing for this for two years," he said. "It would have been a great surprise the other way."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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