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NBPA Chief Billy Hunter On WFAN: Federal Mediation To Take Place

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Billy Hunter, Executive Director of the NBPA (credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Billy Hunter, Executive Director of the NBPA (credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – National Basketball Players Association Director Billy Hunter has said repeatedly that the NBA’s intention was always to cancel 2011-12 regular-season games.

“David Stern promised me a lockout three years ago,” Hunter told WFAN’s Mike Francesa Wednesday afternoon. “That was their plan all along.”

Hunter joined Francesa for about an hour to clarify the status of negotiations between the players’ association and the NBA.

LISTEN: Billy Hunter with Mike Francesa

Commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season Monday, marking the NBA’s first work stoppage since the 1998-99 season.

With another work stoppage, the NBA risks alienating a fan base that sent the league’s revenues and TV ratings soaring during the 2010-11 season. And the cost of cancellations would be staggering. Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would lose hundreds of millions of dollars; Hunter estimated players’ losses at $350 million for each month they were locked out.

(Note: NBA commissioner David Stern will join Mike Francesa at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Listen live here.)

The division of basketball-related income (BRI) continues to be a major sticking point in negotiations.

Hunter has proposed that players get 53 percent of revenues, whereas the league proposed they get 47 percent. The two sides had discussed a 50-50 split last week, but only in informal discussions, and given each BRI point was worth roughly $40 million last season, the gap between 3 points and 6 points is about $120 million in the first year of a deal.

Insisting it needs a system that allows all teams to compete no matter the market size, Stern and Silver said the sides are still apart on annual raises for players and the luxury tax for teams.

Hunter countered that the league’s idea of making the luxury tax more severe would scare too many teams from spending above the cap level.

“If you make the tax high enough, it acts like a hard cap,” Hunter said, calling the tax “egregious.”

Though disappointing to both sides, the lockout isn’t a complete surprise. The union had warned players for years to save their money.

“We spend about two years getting them ready,” Hunter said.

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Hunter, union president Derek Fisher and several NBA players will reportedly conduct a meeting Friday in Los Angeles to tackle the latest developments about ongoing labor talks with league executives. They will stage a handful of regional meetings, including one in Texas Friday.

Hunter revealed that negotiations between the players and owners will continue next week.

“We’ve agreed to a meeting with a federal mediator on Monday,” Hunter said.

Given the gulf that separates owners and players, they will have to close it quickly to avoid further damage to the schedule.

“I think everybody’s waiting for the players to cave,” Hunter said. “They want to see if the players are going to falter after they don’t get a paycheck in November. I think they want to break us.”

What side will give in first? Leave a comment below.

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