There might be no NBA for 'half a season'

NBA union executive director Billy Hunter says the players might

NBA union executive director Billy Hunter says the players might "have to sit out half the season before we get a deal." (Getty Images)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:17 PM ET

TORONTO - Optimism had reigned for the past week on the NBA lockout front.

Not anymore.

Owners and the players association met for well over five hours in Las Vegas on Tuesday, but the mood afterwards was a sombre one and it is now all but certain that, at the least, the pre-season will be wiped out.

NBAPA president Derek Fisher told reporters: “The way it looks right now, we may not start on time.”

Union executive director Billy Hunter added: “We may have to sit out half the season before we get a deal.”

A January start has been the prediction from this corner dating back to a year ago. The owners are looking for a massive, NHL-style system complete with a hard cap and the players, understandably, want no part of a hard cap or unguaranteed deals.

The NHL lost a season when that happened. When it came back, a hard salary cap of $39 million US was in place. It has since risen to $64.3 million six years later, and as a result, it is possible the NHL will lock out its players again next summer.

Hunter said the players see a hard cap as “highly untenable.” Meanwhile, NBA Commisioner David Stern said the players’ stance against hard cap is “an emotional attachment.”

This was the first time full bargaining committees had met after what was believed to be progressive talks among smaller groups over the past two weeks.

Stern said the owners are not yet ready to cancel training camps and the pre-season and wouldn’t do so on Thursday when the board of governors convene in Dallas, but that announcement surely is coming soon.

Stern denied that the owners had refused to waver from earlier proposals, though Hunter said they were “not inclined at this stage to move off the position where they’ve anchored themselves.”

Hunter said the players have instructed him that they are prepared to sit out rather than take what they see as a debilitating offer from the owners.

We shall see. Things tend to change once massive paycheques start getting missed.

What usually happens in labour relations involving professional sports is players cave, owners win, but almost immediately realize that they haven’t won by as much as they thought they had — leading to another labour disruption down the line.

The NHL being the most glaring example.

NBA owners had first brought a hard cap to the table in the 1998 negotiations, finally removing it from consideration late in October.

The only positive at this point might be that the tone has not been as combative and negative as it was when the lockout started and compared to those 1998 talks, which eventually resulted in a 50-game season.

As former Raptor Jermaine O’Neal said to CSNNE.com: “We understand that the world has changed and we need to make some changes.”

“We want the league to be a great league, but we want it to be a fair league ... We don’t want to be locked into something that’s not fair to us.”

O’Neal fared quite well last time around, emerging as a star and eventually becoming one of the highest-paid players in the league.

Training camps are slated to open Oct. 3 with the regular season tipping on Nov. 1.

Don’t bet on it.

Not only do the players and owners have vastly different views of how a new CBA should look, apparently many owners aren’t even on the same page.

The owners spent half of Tuesday’s meeting huddled only with themselves.

The belief is that many who recently bought teams as well as small-market owners favour more sweeping changes that will level the competitive playing field and help them be more profitable.

Other, old-school owners who have already made a ton from their NBA ventures are presumed to be more willing to avoid radical alterations to the system.

That said, even the old guard wants some changes that the players aren’t currently willing to concede.

And so, we wait.

Most likely for a while.


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