That day, when owners and players are scheduled to meet with a federal mediator, is a “really big deal,” he added.
Owners will then open two days of board meetings Wednesday, and without an agreement to bring them, Stern believes further cancellations are coming.
“Right now, Tuesday, Tuesday, Tuesday, just before my owners come into town, having brought in the labor relations committee and Billy (Hunter) having brought in his executive committee, it’s time to make the deal,” Stern said Thursday.
“If we don’t make it on Tuesday, my gut – this is not in my official capacity of canceling games – but my gut is that we won’t be playing on Christmas Day,” the commissioner said.
Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season on Monday when the sides couldn’t reach a deal before a deadline he had set.
Christmas is traditionally the first big day of the NBA season.
This year’s three-game schedule features the NBA Finals rematch between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat.
The sides will need to act quickly to save it. The talks have stalled over the structure of the salary cap system and the division of revenues between owners and players.
They will meet Tuesday with George Cohen, the same mediator who tried to resolve the NFL’s labor dispute months before it eventually ended.
In a separate interview with NBA TV, Stern said he thought one was in reach Monday. The sides met for more than 12 hours over two days before talks broke down.