Amid the promise of the 2010-11 NBA season, there's a very dark cloud cloud hanging over everything: the possibility of a lockout prior to the 2011-12 season. In recent weeks, that cloud has gotten even darker. Now, in what may be the most worrysome sign yet, NBA Player Association executive director Billy Hunter said in an interview with Howard Beck of the New York Times that, at this point, there is a "99 percent chance" there will be a lockout next season.
"I'd be 99 percent sure as of today that there will be a lockout," Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said in an interview at his Harlem office. "I've said, ‘Save your money because in all probability there's going to be a lockout.'
Hunter tells Beck that no meetings between the owners and the players union are scheduled, since each side has completely rejected the other's proposal. The owners want major changes, including a move to a hard salary cap and a 40-percent reduction in player salaries, saving them $750-$800 million. Hunter and the players' union, predictably, isn't going for that. Hunter said the proposal is like the owners "beat me up and take my lunch," and called it "unreasonable," "extreme" and "intractable."
Hunter said he is willing to accept modest cutbacks on the 57-percent share of Basketball-Related Income the players currently get, as well as modest cutbacks on player salaries, but was emphatic that the union will never go for the owners' proposal.
Hunter called the league's proposal "extreme" and the owners "intractable," and he said if the league maintained its stance, then "the distance I think is just too great to move."
"Because we're going to stay where we are," he said.
Of course, the last time an extended lockout happened in 1999, the owners' hawkish ways eventually overcame the players' inability to sustain themselves financially. Hunter is determined not to let that happen this time, saying he has a "$175 million war chest" to help players in need during the inevitable lockout.
It's still early, but clearly, the dispute is getting serious.