The NBA's thrilling season came with a high price tag.
LeBron James' move to Miami and Dirk Nowitzki's title in Dallas couldn't hide a simple fact: Owners insisted they were losing money, perhaps $300 million this season, and they weren't interested in subsidizing a system they felt guaranteed they would keep losing more.
So the NBA locked out its players Thursday night, a long-expected move that puts the 2011-12 season in jeopardy and comes as the NFL is trying to end its own work stoppage.
The NBA lockout began at 9:01 p.m. PDT. It will last until players and owners can agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, one owners demand must give all teams a chance to profit.
"We had a great year in terms of the appreciation of our fans for our game. It just wasn't a profitable one for the owners, and it wasn't one that many of the smaller market teams particularly enjoyed or felt included in," Commissioner David Stern said. "The goal here has been to make the league profitable and to have a league where all 30 teams can compete."
Despite a three-hour meeting and a final proposal from the players - which NBA leaders said would have raised average player salaries to $7 million in the sixth year of the deal - the sides could not close the enormous gulf between their positions.
"The problem is there's such a gap in terms of the numbers, where they are and where we are, and we just can't find any way to bridge that gap," union chief Billy Hunter said.
All league business is officially on hold, starting with the free agency period that would have opened today. The NBA's summer league in Las Vegas already has been canceled, preseason games in Europe were never scheduled, and players might have to decide if they want to risk playing in this summer's Olympic qualifying tournaments without the NBA's help in securing insurance in case of injury.
Teams will be prohibited from having any contact with their players, most of whom won't be paid until a deal is done.
"We're going to stand up for what we have to do, no matter how long it's going to take," Thunder star Kevin Durant said. "No matter how long the lockout's going to take, we're going to stand up. We're not going to give in."
The lockout comes exactly one year after one of the NBA's most anticipated days in recent years, when James, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the celebrated class of 2010 became free agents on July 1, 2010.
That free agency bonanza - highlighted by James, Wade and Chris Bosh joining forces in Miami - got the league started on a season where ticket and merchandise sales, television ratings and buzz all increased. That weakened the owners' case that the system was broken beyond repair, but it also demonstrated why they wanted changes.
Stern said owners feel pressured to spend as much as possible to prove their commitment to winning to fans.
Kings trade Casspi: J.J. Hickson's athleticism and potential made him a budding NBA star, but his inconsistency made him expendable - so the Cavaliers decided to move on without him.
They cleared out a logjam at power forward by trading the enigmatic Hickson to the Kings for forward Omri Casspi and a future first-round pick.
Casspi became the first Israeli to play in the NBA when Sacramento drafted him 23rd overall in 2009. The designation came with as much fanfare as it did pressure to succeed from a country that loves basketball. He started 27 games for the Kings, but his minutes were limited behind promising youngsters DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Donte Green.
Briefly: Miami guard Eddie House exercised his player option, remaining with the Heat at $1.4 million next season. ... Lakers guard Shannon Brown opted out of his contract, becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Read more: NBA lockout puts 2011-12 season in jeopardy