As if they don't have it hard enough, NBA referees are expecting to be locked out on October 1st when exhibition play gets underway after contract negotiations with the league broke down. Does that mean total anarchy in the NBA?
That would be fun, but no...it doesn't.
Lamell McMorris, the lead negotiator and spokesman for the referees, told ESPN that the league is already in contact with replacement referees to work the preseason, which is less than three weeks away, and maybe even the start of the regular season.
The dispute apparently has to do with the league wanting a reduction of 10 per cent to the referee budget, which costs $32-million. The refs union says they proposed a $2.5-million reduction, with a wage freeze for this season and reduced travel cuts - but it was still $700,000 from the NBA's "target."
League commissioner David Stern was accused by the referee's lead negotiator of being "rude" and not negotiating in good faith after he abruptly ended a negotiating session on Tuesday. Afterwards, ESPN quoted Stern as saying:
"It would be accurate to say that we had the meeting, that we didn't make any progress and that there are no future meetings scheduled," adding they "tried" to treat the refs like a valuable part of the game.
There's also talk that Stern's hard line approach with the refs is his way of "sending a message" to the players, who will be in labour talks with the league soon. Their current deal expires during the 2010-11 season, and Stern obviously denies that that's the case.
Makes you wonder though! Ever wonder what the NBA might be like without refs? Probably something like this: