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NBA Lockout: What Lies Ahead

As the NBA lockout approaches the three-month mark, there doesn't seem to be any better feeling on either side of the aisle when it comes to agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement.

The owners labor relations committee and players union executive committee met at length Tuesday and seemed to make progress on some key economic issues, but that was overshadowed by the refusal of either side to budge on the idea of a hard salary cap.  The owners see a hard cap as the only way to ensure profitability, but to this point it continues to be a non-starter with the players

Now both sides will head into key meetings on Thursday. 

The owners will meet in Dallas with commissioner David Stern trying to paint a possible path so salvaging some portion of the 2011-12 season.  Training camps are set to open in a couple short weeks and a decision to pull the plug will have to come soon.  Once camps are cancelled, regular season games won't be far behind.

Meanwhile, the players will be meeting in Las Vegas with a very special guest.  According to Sports Illustrated, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smtih will speak to the players in attendance about his own labor battle that ended without missing any regular-season games.

Smith will also reportedly talk about the downside of de-certification as several agents are pushing their clients towards a vote to de-certify.  The move to dissolve the union didn't work for the NFL players and likely wouldn't have any better outcome in this labor struggle.

So what happens next?

If both the owners and players emerge from their respective meetings steadfast in their belief that the other side needs to bend, then there is no chance the NBA season will start on schedule and we can start talking about losing half a season and beyond.  However, if there is even a small sign that both sides will meet in the middle on revenue sharing and a salary cap then there still might be a chance nothing beyond preseason games are missed.

This isn't a players issue or an owners issue.  This is both sides needing to come to the table to do what's best for a game that badly needs to be fixed.