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Without a lockout, basketball already would have been back by now. The exhibition schedule was to have opened Sunday, and even preseason games can bring big crowds to restaurants and bars near NBA arenas.
Jim Couch, city manager of Oklahoma City, was concerned for restaurants, hotels and volunteer groups in his city. The Thunder are coming off their most successful season since relocating from Seattle, reaching the Western Conference finals last year behind NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, and have developed one of the league's most passionate fan bases.
"What I'm more concerned about than anything else is the momentum that the city has gotten, disrupting the momentum with the Thunder. It was a special year last year with the Thunder, and I think everybody was looking forward to continue that," Couch said. "I think it's almost a love affair between the community and the team, and you hate to disrupt that."
Business went on for the league's partners. ESPN was scheduled to show seven games during the opening two weeks and plans to replace them mostly with college football and basketball games. TNT will rely on its regular prime-time lineup to fill the six games it would have televised.
Adidas, the league's official outfitter, and fellow sneaker giant Nike said they remained committed to basketball and could seek additional exposure at the collegiate or international levels.
Stern and union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers expressed disappointment for fans. Players and owners had the luxury of knowing just how complex the issues were and had two years to prepare themselves financially for a moment that Fisher said was "what we anticipated would probably happen."
"This is a big blow obviously to our fans, most importantly," he said. "They don't have a voice in this fight so far, but we hear them loud and clearly. They want basketball, we want to play basketball, and we're going to do the responsible thing and try our best to bring them basketball as soon as we possibly can."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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