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Keidel: David Stern And Billy Hunter Go Hunting

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Billy Hunter (credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images), David Stern (credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Billy Hunter (credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images), David Stern (credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By Jason Keidel
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It’s tough to adjust to these early sunsets and cold, forlorn nights. There’s no nightly baseball, no Tuesday football. All we had last night was hockey – a sport few of us follow – and a league about to follow the NHL out the backdoor of our consciousness.

Yes, sir, the NBA is on the fast track to hardwood hockey, on the verge of the very thing that killed the NHL – a ruined season.

During his lecture circuit last week, Stern told everyone who would listen (including Mike Francesa) that there had better be serious progress Tuesday – yesterday – or else the NBA season is in serious peril.

Well, nothing happened. Both sides met with mediator George Cohen, whose claim to fame is making a deal between Major League Soccer and its players. Not sure about you, but I don’t have too many pals rushing to Red Bulls games. Cohen sat in on the negotiations between NFL owners and players back in February, and nothing happened there, either.

I wrote about the lockout last week. And it’s rare that I repeat myself, but this NBA nonsense has my briefs in a bunch. When David Stern and Billy Hunter are the most visible faces in basketball, you’ve got troubles. They agreed to meet once more today, though someone familiar with the talks chirped (anonymously, of course) that the sides are worlds apart.

As I implied in my prior column, it’s each man’s job to drown us in subterfuge. And, as expected, I considered Stern a fool after listening to Hunter. Stern was an old, calcifying man clinging to the halcyon (Bird, Magic, and Michael) years, never to be duplicated, no matter how many McDonald’s commercials LeBron records. Then I heard Stern and felt likewise about Hunter. Both men spoke with Francesa last week. Both men are polished at telling us what to think.

It’s the lawyers’ jobs to take a jeweler’s eye to the legalese. Each side wants 53 percent of the pie, and they can’t agree on salary caps, luxury taxes and Bird exemptions. (I’m not a lawyer, but since the players got 57 percent last year, it seems silly for the owners to ask the players to accept 47 percent.) They couldn’t even agree on how to decorate the room where yesterday’s press conference was to be held. Each side wanted their banner more prominently placed.

This looks less and less like a negotiation, and sounds more like a sandbox. But these are very expensive toys they’re tugging on. As always, you, the fan, are the last man considered. King James and Steve Nash can Tweet their sympathies all night, and Stern can belch his bromides about 20 owners losing money every year, but the realities they don’t describe still remain. Every suit in that hotel was escorted to a limousine, which ushered them to an ornate wing in one of Trump’s towers, or to a private jet. They arrived at the negotiating table very rich men, and left it in the same condition. And it’s impossible for the blue-collar stiff to sniff that white-collar greed without getting a little nauseated.

The two sides need to lock themselves in a room, cuff themselves to a chair, chain themselves to a desk, and bang this out. Today. Stern, who loves to speak in nuance, threatened to hack more games off the calendar this week. Would he cancel the season? We don’t know.

Only Stern knows what he’s saying, even if he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com

www.twitter.com/JasonKeidel

Will a deal happen today? Tomorrow? Ever?? Be heard in the comments below…

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