I'm majoring in Econ so it is not like I don't know anything about these kinds of things. Ian Thomson of PointForward correctly pointed out the greatest risk there is for both the players AND the owners:
There has been tremendous fear from both the players and owners of alienating their supporters, who will be infuriated that a relatively small group of adults cannot agree how to share the proceeds of their $4 billion industry. But the bigger risk is indifference. What if a large number of fans realize they can live without the NBA? That they're happy enough to focus on the NFL, March Madness and baseball over the months ahead?
I couldn't say it any better (which is kind of the main reason for quoting anyone I guess). Anyway, I can see it for myself. There isn't anything going on this summer, even less than there usually is. I used to get up every morning and check the newest trade rumors and free agent talk. We'd have Summer League and other basketball related issues. Our star has a strained thigh or whatever could rattle me in my basketball life.
David Stern has formed a highly successful league and I believe it's his right to try everything in order to keep it that way ... except for risking its success. People will switch to other sports, maybe not even other sports, but other countries. In 1998 there weren't any strong basketball leagues in this world besides the NBA. Meanwhile, the European leagues have become really strong, especially the EuroCup and the ULEB Cup offer satisfying basketball. If some of the major stars decide to go over there and play for them their marketing budget while explode and help them to offer NBA salaries quite possibly within the next year. Maybe it's Stern's masterplan to create a European Division in the NBA, maybe it's not.
As for myself, I have already started paying closer attention to my old love German soccer. I will follow the German basketball league, which pretty much sucks, and the other European leagues, heck, maybe I will go to Bologna for a week end and see what Kobe's doing. It's just a one-day-drive away although I bet I'm not the only one thinking this.
Alienating a fanbase who's been so supportive during the past decade and risking losing major stars is a big thing. I'm not entirely sure if David Stern understands the world has changed and the players union has much, much more power than a decade or even five years ago. The European NBA stars, especially the ones near or in their 30s won't struggle with the decision whether to go back home. Kobe loves Europe! The Gasols, Dirk, Kobe, Parker, Ginobili, Ibaka, Bargnani, etc. are just some of the names that come to mind.
The season might be saved by January, the NBA could change forever in the next three months.