|Looking stern: NBA Commissioner David Stern confirmed that the season will be delayed [GALLO/GETTY]
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has cancelled the first two weeks of the regular season after the league owners and players were unable to resolve a bitter labour dispute on Monday.
The decision, confirmed by NBA commissioner David Stern, was made after both parties failed to draw up a new collective bargaining agreement in a last-ditch meeting in New York.
The season was scheduled to start on November 1 and the abandonment covers all games originally scheduled to be played through to November 14.
"Despite extensive efforts, we have not been able to reach a new agreement with the players' union that allows all 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship while fairly compensating our players," NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
The league said refunds plus interest were available for all NBA season-ticket holders for all pre-season and regular-season games that were cancelled.
Among the games that have gone is the planned opening day that would have pitted the champions, the Dallas Mavericks, at home to the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the L.A. Lakers.
Players Association (NBPA) president Derek Fisher, of the Lakers, said the move was not a surprise.
"I continue to believe that we've been more than fair and reasonable in our approach. This is what we anticipated would happen, and here we are," he said, in comments reported by CBS Sports website.
"This is not just about dollars and cents for players. It's about a system for our guys to operate under."
"Unfortunately maybe we need to miss a few games for them to know there's resolve among the players"
NBPA exec director Billy Hunter
NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said that he hoped missing the opening games would help prove to the owners that the players were standing firm.
"Unfortunately maybe we need to miss a few games for them to know there's resolve among the players," he said.
NBA owners contend the league lost $300 million last season with 22 of 30 teams in the red. They had wanted the league's share of basketball-related income increased from 50 to 57 percent, along with a firm salary cap and shorter contracts.
The players had offered to reduce their share from 57 to 53 percent. The league has said owners were willing to discuss a 50-50 split.