League stance troubles PA

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

TROY, Mich. -- The status quo is the way to go.

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players' Association, yesterday publicly offered to extend the current collective bargaining agreement for a year to avoid an NBA lockout on July 1.

However, Hunter said he has been told that such a plan is "a non-starter" for NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners of the 30 teams.

"I'm convinced if there is a lockout, it probably will be a protracted lockout," said Hunter, who met with reporters gathered for the NBA final. "It might be the death knell for the NBA.

"The players are looking for a fair deal. It's almost lunacy to talk about not being able to get a deal."

Hunter described the talks as "stalled," but indicated that if he didn't hear from the league soon, he would contact Stern "one more time" before the contract runs out.

Stern and NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik met with the media last Sunday in San Antonio, at which time Granik said the union was looking for something "richer" than the current deal.

"That's far from the truth," said Hunter, adding that if the NBA wants to extend the current deal for another six years, he would be fine with that, too.

"I don't know whether the actions of the owners are out of greed, but I think (the current CBA) is one of the fairest deals in professional sports. I'm left with the conclusion that it's really a grab on the part of the owners."

There is no single deal-breaking issue, but rather a series of interconnected ones that Hunter said are all economic, or at least have economic consequences. The league wants to shorten the maximum lengths of player contracts; reduce the percentages of annual increases in player contracts; increase the tax punishments on the highest-spending teams; increase the age limit; and develop a stricter drug policy.

Hunter said when you put everything together, the league wants a system that essentially has a hard salary cap, as opposed to the current soft-cap system.

Back in February during the NBA all-star weekend, Stern and Hunter both expressed optimism about the negotiations.

"The tweaking went to an overhaul and the dynamics of the negotiations changed," Hunter said.

On Sunday Stern warned if a lockout were to occur, the players would be making a "tragic mistake" of "epic proportions."

"That door swings both ways," Hunter said yesterday. "It would be a tragic mistake for the owners as well."


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