NBA lockout looms as sides fail to reach deal

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Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash falls as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha, right, of Switzerland, chases the loose ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 30, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) By Matt York Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash falls as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha, right, of Switzerland, chases the loose ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 30, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York) By Matt York

NEW YORK (AP) -- Union chief Billy Hunter says "it's obvious the lockout will happen tonight" after players and owners failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, potentially putting the 2011-12 season in jeopardy.

The lockout will commence at 12:01 EDT on Friday, after the expiration of the current deal that owners say has cost them millions of dollars a year.

Despite a three-hour meeting Thursday, the sides could not close the enormous gap that remained in their positions.  

Hunter says "the gap is too great."

The CBA expires at midnight, after which all league business is officially on hold, starting with the free agency period that would have opened Friday.

Hunter says he hopes the two sides will meet again in the next two weeks.

Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that the CBA ratified in 2005 has "created a broken system that produced huge financial losses for our teams."

The last lockout reduced the 1998-99 season to just a 50-game schedule, the only time the NBA missed games for a work stoppage.