Just as reports surfaced Wednesday that the NBA owners and players are set to meet for the first real negotiations since the lockout began July 1, Hunter told Grantland.com he thinks the league is headed for a lost season.
While difficult to hear, the sobering reality is it could be true. The players and the owners seem to be so far apart on the critical issues like revenue sharing and a more restrictive salary cap. And no one seems willing to budge more than they already have. If the stalemate persists, it is realistic that the 2011-2012 season could be scrapped.
Hunter said he sensed where this was headed when he and Commissioner David Stern first began meeting on the matter of a new collective bargaining agreement in 2007. Stern had a plan then of how to phase in a new labor deal that would help the owners turn a profit. Right now, over 20 owners are claiming to have lost money this past season.
"[Stern has] pretty much followed [his original] road map," Hunter said, as he leaned back in his chair. On a whiteboard behind his head, figures and proposals from both sides had been written up in black marker. "I was convinced when he told me then that he would do it, so I started to prepare the players."
Some have compared the labor differences to one the union and owners had during the 1998-1999 season, when the schedule was reduced to 50 games. The owners obviously caved big time, giving the players 57 percent of the revenue share. But this time, the owners seem more determined to get a better deal, so much so they are willing to forgo the 2011-2012 season.
The NBA players seem willing to bend but only to a point. But they doubt the owners combined to lose over $300 million this past season, as has been claimed. The players are committed to staying out until they get what they consider a fair deal. Some of the star players have started listening to overseas offers, with Hunter’s blessings.
(Photo: REUTERS/Chip Somodevilla)