The NBA changed the look of its website just after the NBA Lockout became official just after midnight tonight. They issued a press release that you can read over at SBN-Cleveland. They also released a handy FAQ on what exactly is going on and what the future might hold. Feel free to print it out and keep it handy:
Q. What happens in a lockout?
A. All contact between NBA players and the teams ceases. No communication. No use of team facilities. No contracts signed. No free-agent shopping. Players still owed salary for the 2010-11 season will continue to receive payments but other benefits (insurance) are suspended.
Q. What are the most important issues holding up a deal?
A. The NBA owners are seeking changes in both the financial split of league revenues dedicated to player compensation and the structure of the system. In the expiring collective bargaining agreement, players received 57 percent of basketball-related income. The owners - citing combined losses approaching $300 million last year, with 22 of 30 teams in the red - had offered a 50-50 split in their latest proposal. The owners also want to function under a "flex" salary cap that the players interpret as a hard cap similar to those in the NFL and NHL, as opposed to the current "soft" cap.
Q. How far apart are the two sides?
A. A chasm at the moment. Besides the dispute over cap structure, the players - whose latest offer was a 54.3 percent split to 45.7 for the teams - contend the owners' 10-year proposal would lose them about $7 billion over its term (allowing for projected growth in league revenues).
By the way, both sides traditionally take their most recent offers off the table once a work stoppage commences, so the above numbers might not be the starting points the next time the parties talk.
Q. When is the next negotiating session?
A. TBD. When the two sides broke off talks in July 1998, they did not meet again until early August - and then for only 90 minutes, without progress. The owners and the players did not exactly sequester themselves heading toward the June 30 deadline this year, with just three meetings - totaling about 12 hours - in the final two weeks.
Q. What does this mean for 2011-12?
A. There are no dates chiseled in stone by which a deal must be struck for next season to escape unscathed. But if history is a guide, a lockout in 1995 lasted 74 days - into September - without changes in preseason or regular season schedules. In 1998, the NBA cancelled preseason games once the lockout reached Sept. 24. On Oct. 13, the first two weeks of the regular schedule were zapped.
The league kept pushing about a month out in terms of cancellations, until NBA commissioner David Stern issued a Jan. 7 drop-dead date to stage even a 50-game game season. Free agency, training camps and two preseason games were crammed into a period of less than three weeks once the new agreement was ratified.