NEW YORK – After the NBA players and owners failed to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, the league officially went into a lockout at 11 p.m. Thursday.
The two sides met for more than three hours earlier in the day, but reports indicate they still are not close to coming to an agreement. With the NFL already in a lockout that has lasted almost four months, fans now must face the very real possibility of professional football and basketball seasons being cut short simultaneously.
This marks the third work stoppage in NBA history, and the first since one that stretched from 1998 into 1999. That lockout resulted in a shortened season of 50 games, the only time in league history that games were eliminated because of a work stoppage.
With the lockout officially underway, all league business will be put on hold. That means the free agency period that would have started Friday will be postponed until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, a process that could take months.
Luckily for local fans, the Oklahoma City Thunder took care of almost all its contract negotiations before the lockout went into effect. In the span of two days, the Thunder exercised options or agreed to extensions with a total of six players: James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Nazr Mohammed, Eric Maynor, Byron Mullens and Cole Aldrich.
That leaves Daequan Cook as the only member of the Thunder's 10-man rotation who is not under contract for next season, if there is one. Cook is a restricted free agent, and the Thunder extended him a qualifying offer Monday. That means the team will be able to match any other offer made to Cook if it chooses.
But all contract talk will need to be put on hold while the work stoppage remains in effect. If negotiations stretch into October, it would require the league to begin cutting games. Summer league play in Las Vegas already has been canceled, and preseason games overseas were never scheduled.
When the NFL's lockout went into effect in early March, the players' union elected to decertify and take its complaints to the court system. Reports indicate that the NBA players will not take that same route, and instead will continue the negotiation process.
Players are forbidden from having any contact with team officials during a lockout, including coaches, general managers and medical staff. Organizations also cannot arrange team events, which includes team practices or workouts.
In the case of the NFL, team leaders often chose to personally contact their teammates and organize unofficial practice sessions. Such action also will be possible for NBA teams, but such gatherings would be voluntary and players would not be financially compensated for their time.