Cover Story: NBA Lockout - Up in the Air?

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Hoping to beat the buzzer, time is running out for the Charlotte Bobcats and the rest of the NBA as the players and owners struggle to reach a contract agreement.

Players and owners met in New York on Monday.  And what's decided will have a big impact on fans and businesses in Charlotte.

NBA head honchos had said if there's no contract agreement by Monday the season won't start in three weeks.

Training camp and the pre-season have already been canceled, now it's chipping into the regular season.

"Guest Services. This is Don.. may I help you?"

Don Lockhart was looking forward to the arrival of the NBA season more than most.

The general manager of Hotel Sierra, which opened in Center City in March, he couldn't be any closer to the where the Bobcats play.  It's right next door.

"They are a big partner.  We are a corporate partner with them.. so it's important for us," Lockhart said.

The big games - like when the Miami Heat and LeBron James are in town - and when games fall on a weekend it's good for their bottom line.

Now with the season in jeopardy everything's up in the air.

The hotel's already missed out on some heads in beds when the Bobcats canceled training camp.

"That was going to be two weeks of business.. all the players in town. Basically you're talking 15 to 20 rooms for a two week period," said Lockhart.

Just like the NFL lockout earlier this year, this deal is over how to divide the dollars.

NBA owners want players' share of revenue to go from 57-percent of revenue to 50-percent.  The league says its 30 teams altogether lost roughly 300-million dollars last season.

More than half of all franchises are in the red.  That includes the Bobcats, which Michael Jordan took over last year.

Erik Spanberg who covers the business side of the Bobcats for the Charlotte Business Journal says it's no secret the team is losing money.

Bob Johnson paid $300 million for the team almost a decade ago.  Today it's estimated worth is a little over half that number.

"It's very rare for sports teams to go backwards in terms of franchise value," said Spanberg, "so that's some of what the Bobcats have to rebuild. That's also some of what the NBA has to rebuild."

Small market teams like Charlotte have a hard time competing with big-markets that can spend more on players salaries.  Working out a revenue sharing deal is also what this is about.

Who will win?  We asked David Berri, an associate professor at Southern Utah University and an expert on the NBA.

"This is a game the players are going to lose. And the players are going to lose this game because they decided back in April before the playoffs started in 2011 - they decided not to go on strike," said Berri.

He says players have no leverage at this point.  The owners have the upper hand.

The last time an NBA labor dispute cut into the regular season was 12 years ago.  The season was shortened from 82 games to 50 games.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.