SCHMIDT: Futile NBA locks out its fans

Where, oh where, is the NBA? Is it ever coming back?

Locked out, locked up, locked away in some hard to reach tower like a forlorn fairytale princess. That’s where the NBA is. And the chances of it being rescued look morbid. Bleak. Doomed. As in, no basketball until 2012. If the Mayans have their way, maybe no basketball ever.

You can tell your kids you witnessed the end of the world.

The Apocalypse.

It was on a Friday in early July.

That’s when the collective bargaining agreement ended and the NBA joined the NFL as the second pro-sports organization shut down by labor strife this year. It was a sad day. Red Auerbach’s ghost shoved a lit stogie into its eye. Deron Williams packed up and moved to Turkey. David Stern cackled and high-fived the devil.

Of course, the NFL’s lockout ended months ago, and the season started on schedule last week, the result of good, old-fashioned hard work and sagacity.

Comparatively, it’s been over two months, and we’re still not even remotely in the ballpark to getting professional basketball this year.

The players and owners, it appears, are deliberately trying to screw each other out of millions of dollars, which seems counterproductive but makes sense when you consider that owners, despite their fortunes, are cheap and selfish, and players have egos that need to be fed every hour, or they wilt and die.

That’s understandable; it comes with the territory of being rich and famous and corrupted by power. But honestly, does it seem like they’re even trying to get a deal done? There was a meeting on Tuesday, and it seems like things only got worse.

Meanwhile, players are jumping ship to European and Asian leagues in what appears to be some sort of collaborated mass diaspora, gobbling up lucrative contracts and basically telling the NBA it can eff itself with its low-balling flex salary cap proposal.

The owners are probably off in Wonderland swimming in Stern’s caviar Jacuzzi and smoking rolled up hundreds.

It’s not like they’re rational with their money, anyway. The projected loss of not having a season is over a billion dollars, yet they refuse to cave and pay the players what they want. And, of course, the players don’t want to compromise and accept anything less than what they’ve already been making.

Mortgages on Lamborghini’s don’t pay themselves off, after all.

So here we are, two sides on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, staring, waiting for the other to blink first. It’s a Mexican standoff of excruciating futility.

All the while, the fans suffer.

Of course the fans suffer. Who else would? The players can always play somewhere. The owners can always own something. But if there’s no NBA, then what exactly do basketball fans cheer for? There’s probably a tasteless joke about the WNBA in here somewhere, but let’s just move on.

The fans are caught in the crossfire here, in this vituperative, seething war that we’re helpless to stop. Confusing terms are being thrown around, hollow words like “decertification” and “profit-sharing” are used like they mean something important.

Fingers are cocked and pointed in every direction. Everyone is blaming the guy on his right.

Blame the players. Blame the owners. Blame the small market teams for not being able to carry their own weight. Blame Dr. James Naismith for inventing this silly game in the first place.

Blame everyone. And do nothing.

That’s how this seems to work. So the players will play overseas and make their millions anyway. And the owners will rest on their haunches and stack their billions anyway.

And the fans?

Well, we get screwed, don’t we? And we get no basketball until 2012.

Personally, I think the Mayans were right.