The autumn season is one of my favorite times of the sports year.

It marks the beginning of the football season – NCAA and NFL; the end of the baseball playoffs; and, my personal favorite, the tip-off to the collegiate and professional basketball seasons.

Every single night there is bound to be an intriguing sports spectacle available on the television screen.

Unfortunately, however, the National Basketball Association could throw a wrench in the anticipation of sports fans throughout the nation.

Similar to the National Football League this offseason, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement has expired and owners have locked out the players, jeopardizing the beginning of the professional basketball season.

To the casual fan, this doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Hell, the NFL season started on time.

But it is not that simple this time around.

I was never convinced that the NFL was going to miss significant time due to the collective bargaining disagreement. The two sides were never really that far apart. Their argument, more or less, consisted of one rich man agreeing to give another rich man an extra couple bucks for ice cream.

This NBA lockout, though, is incredibly complex.

The two sides, the owners and the players, are so far apart on a variety of issues that players say they have been advised by their agents to cut back on spending and put away enough funds to anticipate a two year lockout.

Yes, you read that correctly.

In a “Player X” piece in Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago, an anonymous NBA player confessed that he and many of his peers have been directed to prepare as if there will not be a 2011-12 or 2012-13 NBA season.

That is how far apart these two sides are.

One of the big differences between the NFL and NBA is that the one legit option for competitive football in the world is here in the United States: the NFL.

Basketball doesn’t work the same way. There are competitive franchises all over the world that are arguably up to par with an average NBA team. Foreign teams also pay an incredibly handsome salary that is not taxable in the United States, allowing players the opportunity to make about the same amount of money in another country.

Because of that simple fact, the players in this league have very little incentive to back down and accept a deal that they do not think suits them best. The owners, this time, are on the hot seat.

And it will be up to them to decide the future of this league.

Commissioner David Stern’s statement following the latest bargaining session last week, “We did not have a great day,” just will not get it done.