NBA headed for lockout after talks collapse


By , Toronto Sun

First posted:

TORONTO - 

To the surprise of, oh, nobody, an NBA lockout is upon us.

After last-ditch negotiations failed to result in a deal on Thursday afternoon, the NBA announced it would be locking out its players at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning.

This is the first labour stoppage in the NBA since a lockout resulted in a 50-game 1998-99 schedule which kicked off in Feb. 1999.

The sides have a wide gulf to bridge and some reports say multiple owners are prepared to endure the “nuclear option” a lost season, in order to fix a collective bargaining agreement they insist is not working.

The players are willing to make concessions, but believe the owners are asking for the moon.

If you listen to player’s union vice president and ex-Raptor Matt Bonner, this one is not going to end quickly.

“They’re asking for a deal that is worse than hockey’s, which is considered to be the worst collective bargaining deal in sports history,” Bonner told the San Antonio Express-News.

“If that’s their best offer, we don’t have much choice but to fight for something better.”

The NBA, claiming 22-of-30 teams are losing money, has proposed implementing a $45 million US hard salary cap, a 33% salary rollback and the elimination of guaranteed contracts.

The union said it would not decertify at this point. Many believe the owners are looking to break the union. Union chief Billy Hunter said that is not going to happen and seemed more positive than Bonner.

“I’ve been waiting for a lockout for two, three years,” Hunter told reporters.

“Now it’s here. Our guys are anxious to get a deal.

“I’m hoping that over the next month or so that there will be sort of a softening on their side and maybe we have to soften our position as well.”

But the players are far more motivated than the owners, despite claims to the contrary from the league.

“Needless to say we’re disappointed that this is where we find ourselves,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.

Summer League in Las Vegas has already been cancelled, the pre-season is in doubt and eventually, barring a productive return to the table in a few weeks, regular season games will be as well.

The decision to go to a lockout stings just as much as that other “decision” a year ago.

Maybe moreso.

CANADA SHINES

Canada got off to a much-needed solid start at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Latvia, defeating Korea 109-93.

Toronto’s Sim Bhullar gave the Koreans all kinds of trouble, scoring 24 points and adding 14 rebounds as Canada held a 70-34 edge in points in the paint.

The 7-foot-4 Bhullar had his way with a team that did not have a player taller than 6-foot-8.

The Whitby, Ont., native Dyshawn Pierre added 23 and 10 for Canada, while former Oakwood star Julian Clarke had 17.

Canada used an 11-0 run in the final quarter to pull away.

Korea is the weak link in Canada’s group and beating Friday’s opponents, Croatia, as well as Lithuania will be much more difficult since some of Canada’s top players, such as Myck Kabongo, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, declined to compete at the event.

VALANCIUNAS TOO

Raptors draft pick Jonas Valanciunas started his tournament well, though he could not lead Lithuania past Croatia.

Despite his 19 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, Croatia prevailed 88-75.

The Lithuanians struggled from the floor, shooting a dismal 38% including 2-17 from three, while Croatia nailed 10-20 long-range attempts.

Valanciunas shot just 7-17 from the field, but hit 5-of-6 from the line before fouling out in 36 minutes.

Fouls are one of the main concerns with Valanciunas at this point as he, similar to Raptors forward Amir Johnson, has shown a propensity to pick up a lot of fouls when he plays heavy minutes.

ONE MORE YEAR

The Raptors finally got around to announcing that senior vice-president of basketball operations Maurizio Gherardini and senior director of scouting Jim Kelly have had their contracts renewed through 2011-12.

It is unclear if they will retain their current roles or if post-lockout hirings will affect their status.

Their contracts were set to run out late Thursday night.

MAKING ROOM

The Cleveland Cavaliers have cleared the way for Brampton’s Tristan Thompson to become the team’s starting power forward by dealing away former starter J.J. Hickson.

Hickson was sent to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for sharp-shooting small forward Omri Casspi and a lottery-protected 2012 first round pick.

Previously, the Cavaliers had declined to move Hickson in a package for Amare Stoudemire that might have kept superstar LeBron James from leaving for the Miami Heat.

Clearly they think quite highly of Thompson, the No. 4 selection of the 2011 draft.

ODDS AND ENDS

Young Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems spent some time with the team’s elder statesman, Jose Calderon, this week in Spain at a camp for kids ... Denver centre Nene has opted out of his contract and will be a highly-sought-after free agent ... The Raptors have been connected to free agent centres Tyson Chandler and Samuel Dalembert though they might not have the cap space to sign either, depending on the new CBA ... The National Basketball League of Canada continues to make progress. Owners met in Toronto this week and established a salary cap, length of schedule, roster limits, general rules and Canadian content quotas, among other things. A combine and draft is set for Aug. 20 and 21st.

On the negative side, a franchise in Kingston failed to materialize and instead, that ownership group will look to Moncton.

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