NBA Union Chief “99 Percent Sure” of Lockout in 2011 Season

NBA fans may need to relish the current season, because there's no telling when they'll see their favorite teams on the court again.

The head of the players association indicated on November 22 that he's "99 percent sure" that the owners will stage a lockout next season, reports ESPN.

“I think 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, “ NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said at a press conference.

Hunter said that he’s been telling players to start saving their money in light of the fact that no progress has been made between the NBPA and league representatives in regards to hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement.

The two sides met last week but were unable to resolve any of the major sticking points that have plagued their talks. League owners want players to agree to cuts in salaries, the length of their contracts, guarantees, annual raises and to agree to restructure the rookie salary scale.

“I don’t really see that the argument’s all that compelling for the changes that they’re asking for,” Hunter said.

The league wants to see a total reduction in player salary costs of between $700 and $800 million and wants to replace the current “soft” salary cap with a “hard” cap system, similar to the one used by the NFL. The NBA’s current salary structure allows for a wide variety of exceptions and rules, making it very hard for teams to structure deals.

Players counter by pointing toward record revenues, along with strong ticket sales and TV ratings.

Both Hunter and NBA Commissioner David Stern hope that some progress can be made by February’s All-Star Break to assuage fears of the league’s first work stoppage since 1998. Hunter said he’s, “waiting on some sign, some movement from the owners that they want to reach a reasonable deal.”

Selected Reading: ESPN, New York Times, FanHouse

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