The NBA’s current contract with its 60-odd referees runs out next week and the sides appear to be far apart on a new deal, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Sept. 1 is the expiration date of the current five-year pact. One source told ESPN.com on Tuesday that — with the league proposing an across-the-board reduction to the referee budget of an estimated 10 percent — the impasse might not be resolved before the start the 2009-10 season.
As of “right now,” according to the source, existing NBA referees “will not be working preseason [or the] regular season.”
Another source with knowledge of the talks, however, countered by questioning the referees’ willingness to hold out in a depressed economy if it reaches the point that the league threatens to impose a lockout.