Happy Turkey Day, folks. While the players and ownership are in super quiet and secret negotiations currently to salvage basketball, that wasn't the case 13 years ago. There are those dreaded words again haunting our dreams: "optimism" and "progress". If a deal isn't done by Friday or Saturday, Santa Claus is the only thing you'll be cheering for on December 25th.
Santa Claus won't be leaving any presents under the NBA's tree this Christmas.
The NBA on Tuesday officially canceled its annual Christmas Day doubleheader on NBC as the owners and players continue struggling with labor problem.
Although both sides had expressed some optimism last week, the bargaining process took a turn for the worse Tuesday when they began disagreeing over a luxury tax they had previously agreed upon.
The latest argument threatened to cancel Saturday's scheduled resumption of talks.
``The central part of the deal is no longer on the table, which means we didn't make any progress at all Friday,'' said Russ Granik, NBA deputy commissioner. ``The owners feel there's no point in having any more meetings right now.''
In place of the New York Knicks at the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Phoenix Suns doubleheader, NBC will show It's A Wonderful Life, a Christmas movie starring Jimmy Stewart.
The NBA now also has canceled every other game leading up to Christmas Day.
``The whole season is in jeopardy,'' Granik said. ``We're still so far apart on so many issues that we're really a long way from a deal. We had no other choice.''
After the Christmas Day doubleheader, NBC is not scheduled to begin its weekly telecasts until Jan. 16 with regional coverage.
The loss of the Christmas Day doubleheader is not a crushing blow for the league or its owners. The NBA will be paid - even if no games are played - by both NBC and Turner Broadcasting under the terms of its four-year, $2.64 billion contract.
If no games are played this season, the television networks will receive reduced fees in the final year of the contract - or receive additional games to televise at no charge.
At issue is how to split the estimated $2 billion in annual revenue generated by the NBA.
Last season, the players received 57 percent. The owners want to cut that figure to no more than 53 percent, while the players have dropped their demands to 57 percent.
The new dispute centers on the details of a ``backup tax'' that would have been charged to the highest-spending owners in the final three or four years of a six-or seven-year agreement.
The tax would only be collected if a previously agreed upon escrow tax - 10 to 15 percent of players' paychecks - failed to provide enough to reduce the players share of revenues to an agreed upon percentage.
Also at issue now is a major change in free agency rules that the owners are trying to change. The proposed rule would force teams who sign another team's free agent to give up the right to re-sign their own players under the Larry Bird exception, which allows them to exceed the salary cap.