NEW YORK — Eighteen days after celebrating an electric championship series and a revitalizing season, the NBA is shutting down — perhaps for a very long time.
After two years of static negotiations on a new labor deal, NBA owners voted Thursday to impose a lockout at midnight, sending the league into a bleak and uncertain offseason.
"Needless to say, we're disappointed that this is where we find ourselves," Adam Silver, the deputy commissioner, said after negotiators emerged from a final three-hour bargaining session at a Manhattan hotel.
Despite several meetings over the past few weeks, and modest movement on both sides, the parties remained separated by several billion dollars over the life of a new collective bargaining agreement. Over the past week of talks, each side accused the other of misrepresenting its proposals.
With no discernible momentum, league negotiators led by commissioner David Stern and Peter Holt, the Spurs owner, recommended the lockout, which was authorized in a conference call with the NBA's labor committee Thursday evening.
Negotiations will continue, however, with both sides sounding wary of moving the battle to the courts. Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, said the union had no immediate plans to decertify — a move that would serve as the precursor to an antitrust lawsuit.
"We're going to continue to negotiate, we've already agreed," Hunter said. "That was sort of the closing agreement up there, that we would not let the imposition of a lockout stop us from meeting."
The next session could come within the next two weeks, after the union receives additional financial documents from the league. In the meantime, all league business will cease.
Players and teams are barred from communicating with each other, even through intermediaries, like agents and family members. Paychecks and league-paid health care will be suspended. No trades or signings are allowed. Free agency, which would have begun today, will be delayed indefinitely.
From the beginning, owners have been pushing for a hard salary cap, shorter contracts and a reduction in salaries of about $750 million a year, a package that would be the most significant change to the system in 25 years. The players adamantly oppose a hard cap, preferring to keep the current soft-cap system, with modest changes to save the owners money.
Despite annual revenue of about $3.8 billion, NBA officials say the existing system is broken, with 22 of 30 teams losing money, and league-wide losses exceeding $300 million a year.
Stern warned there is no telling how long a lockout might last.
"I'm not scared," Stern said. "I'm resigned to the potential damage that it can cause to our league" and to the people who make their living in and around the NBA. He added: "As we get deeper into it, these things have a capacity to take on a life of their own. You never can predict what will happen."
Cavs trade Hickson to Kings: J.J. Hickson's athleticism and potential made him a budding star. His inconsistency made him maddening and expendable. The Cavaliers decided it was time to move on without him, trading Hickson to the Kings for forward Omri Casspi and a future first-round pick. Hickson spent three mostly productive seasons in Cleveland, but his days were numbered when the club drafted Texas forward Tristan Thompson with the No. 4 overall pick last week.
Lakers: Guard Shannon Brown has opted out of his contract, becoming an unrestricted free agent. He has averaged 7.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists since being acquired from Charlotte in February 2009. He was part of two NBA championship teams with Los Angeles.