With NBA commissioner David Stern announcing that the first two weeks of the 2011-12 NBA season will be cancelled through November 14th, a lot more is at stake than Carmelo Anthony’s (supposed) return to Denver on November 16th.

With the US economy teetering on the edge of collapse and unemployment remaining painfully high, NBA owners and players couldn't figure out a way to play 82 basketball games this season because of a disagreement over basketball related income (BRI), a hard salary cap, player exemptions and revenue sharing. 

What a shame. What a sham.

Leading to Monday's last-ditch bargaining session between the owners and players, I – and many fans like me – were led to believe that optimism was in the air. The owners seemingly moved substantially from their insistence on the players getting 43% of BRI (down from the 57% the players were awarded under the previous collective bargaining agreement) and it didn't seem like a few petty percentage points would keep the NBA from opening its doors in 2011.

But as commissioner Stern alluded to in his Monday night comments, the owners and players remain very far apart on an assortment of issues.

The real losers in all of this, of course, aren't the players, the owners or even the fans (most true fans don't buy tickets anyway as the NBA has priced the true fan out of its arenas). The real losers are the league, arena and hospitality employees who depend on the NBA for their source of income. I always felt that the owners and players – especially given today's economic circumstances – had an obligation to play out the season while negotiating in the background for the benefit of these employees. And for the first and probably only time in my life, I agreed with former Nugget Carmelo Anthony who in late August said "Just let us play and continue to negotiate".

Maybe Melo was as anxious to return to Denver on November 16th as we fans were to see him back here.

Now, if the NBA loses only two weeks of the 2011-12 season, the Nuggets first game will be Melo’s return to Denver while wearing a New York Knicks jersey.

Don't count on it.