NEW YORK (AP) — NBA players’ association executive director Billy Hunter said Monday he is “99 percent sure” there will be a player strike next summer.
“It’s highly probable that there will be a lockout and that’s what I’m preparing for because I don’t see anything else right now,” Hunter said.
With negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires next summer going nowhere, Hunter said he’s been instructing his players to save their money.
There was no breakthrough in the latest meeting with league representatives last week, and the sides hope to meet again next month. But Hunter said the owners aren’t budging on their demands for cuts in salaries, contract lengths and guarantees, annual raises, and the rookie salary scale.
“What’s left?” Hunter said in a conference room at the union’s headquarters after helping distribute Thanksgiving turkeys to 2,000 families outside.
The sides have been negotiating for more than a year, but Hunter agreed with Commissioner David Stern that there’s been no progress. And the players are no closer to agreeing to the cuts that the league is seeking.
“I don’t really see that the argument’s all that compelling for the changes that they’re asking for,” Hunter said.
The league is calling for a reduction in player salary costs of $700 to $800 million and is seeking a hard salary cap to replace the system which now allows for certain exceptions.
The players counter that the current system has worked, pointing to record revenues and ticket sales, and strong TV ratings. They say the total of negotiated salaries has dropped for three straight seasons and forecast a 3 to 5 percent increase in revenues in 2010-11.
“It seems like things are doing all right and so our position is that we want to do what’s best for the game,” said Knicks guard Roger Mason Jr., a member of the players’ executive committee. “Any way that we can make the game better as players, speaking for a lot of the guys, we’re all for it. But we don’t want to have a deal that’s just not fair and that’s what we think is being presented to us right now.”
Hunter said the league has given no feedback on the proposal the union submitted in July. He offered no specifics of it, other than to say the players could be open to negotiating their guarantee of 57 percent of the revenues — which Stern has said is a central issue in the next CBA.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.