Billy Hunter predicts lost season, owners sue the players

A day after the owners sue the players Billy Hunter predicts a lost season for the NBA

He gave a wide ranging interview at a seminarwhere he candidly answered questions.

NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said Wednesday that if he "had to bet on it," he would wager that the entire 2011-12 season would be wiped out by the lockout.

He also described the gap between players and owners as considerably greater than it was before:

Hunter said owners initially demanded that "we give them back a billion dollars a year," and then it came down to $900 million.
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"We're $800 million apart per year," Hunter told about 200 people during a seminar at a conference in Baltimore of the National Bar Association, an organization of predominantly African-American lawyers and judges.

Hunter's own previous quotes about the proposal at the deadline said the owners were asking for 8 billion over ten years (or 800 million a year), and he quoted the sides as 700 million apart in previous talks before [as the players offered to give back 1 billion].

The league filed suit against the NBA for not bargaining in good faith. The premise behind the suit appears to be that players have repeatedly threatened to decertify.

Regardless of what you think of the merits of the suit [I think it's comical given that the players gave a fairly significant concession while the owners have asked for unheard of concessions], the move was a brilliant one by the NBA.

They'll now fight the initial rounds of a decertification suit in the court of the owner's choosing. It doesn't mean they'll win, but it certainly helps their odds considerably.

What does all this really mean? It's the same rhetoric in a way. The sides are really far apart. They're sniping at each other, taking each other to court, getting all pissy much like any labor negotiation where both sides what drastically different things.

Two things need to happen for us to have basketball this season:
1: The owners need to get rid of their flat rate salary scale plan which pushes BRI to sub 40% levels by the end of the deal.
2: Both sides need to compromise significantly on the BRI% change. 50/50 is a number that might happen which is a roll back of about 15% in terms of salary.

It seems unlikely that either side is going to make any movement before we're scheduled to miss games. I'd look for no real movement between the two sides until we hit October and the threat of missing real games hits us. At that point, we'll see a last, best offer by both sides and have to hope the offers are close enough to start real negotiations.

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  • You could easily take $300 million out of the salary pool and not underpay one additional player. If they met in the middle at $400 million each the players would still be the best paid in professional sports.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Overpaid is an interesting term. You are worth what someone will pay you. It'd be interesting to see how much players were worth without a CBA.

    From a "what is fair for a professional athlete to make" I could probably take a billion dollars out of the player pool and not feel sorry for what they are making.

    However, we know people would pay them more than that if they could, because they have, so they are worth more.

    In an ideal world, we'd cut player salaries by a billion and then lower ticket prices all over the league, but we know that's not going to happen.

  • I think it is a scary time in the world economy right now. We have been assuming things will be back to normal in a year or two from the last 4 years. Last year's success in the NBA ratings was purely due to LeBron hate. If LeBron had stayed in Cleveland, I doubt the ratings would have been the same. That will dissipate now and if the players union are not realistic enough to agree to big cuts, they are digging their own grave.

    Are they assuming that NBA is like NFL a "economic recession/depression" proof business? If the owner's primary business is the NBA team, why will he cave in to an unfavorable deal with this uncertain economy?

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    If the NBA is the owners primary business (and I'm not sure that's true for even a single owner really), then they're still in trouble if they lose a season.

    How much apathy as there fore the league if they lose a year? How much do you shrink the overall pie in that scenario?

    Say the league loses a half billion due to lack of interest after a missed season. You've now lost 13% of your BRI which is equivalent to 7% of the BRI shift. At some point it makes sense to deal even if you're not happy because a smaller piece of a larger pie is still better for you.

    Especially if you are trying to renegotiate a new TV deal in a couple of years, if you lose a year and lose your popularity right before you renegotiate that? You're potentially costing yourself truckloads of money.

  • Well, the agents were correct when they met with Billy Hunter a couple weeks ago. The agents wanted to file an anti-trust suit immediately because the owners weren’t bargaining in good faith. The agents felt Billy Hunter had no hope of negotiating anything better than the owners’ current meager offer. Billy Hunter countered that he preferred to continue negotiating with the owners. Now we see where that stance got Hunter…

    The NBA has beat Billy Hunter and the players union to the punch by beginning litigation. It is clear that Billy Hunter is useless as a negotiator/representative for the players. The players need a team of attorneys not a wimpy negotiator with no leverage, and no law degree.

    If I were in the agent’s shoes now, I would advocate litigating to the hilt. But regardless of how this stand-off concludes, if I were the agents I would very quietly begin getting the legal and investment pieces in place for the players to create their own league a few years from now – perhaps after the next CBA concludes. Let the owners put on shorts and jerseys and see who comes to watch them play.

    More than any sport, the top 100 or so players control the on-court action – league wide. If those players leave there is no NBA. This will take a huge amount of planning and preparation, but if the agents and their legal teams commit they could create a Players’ League with say 20-24 teams. The biggest hurdle may be finding legitimate arenas to play in. Chicago has the Allstate Arena, but the other markets I don’t know about.

    It’s a huge project, but given the owners’ stance and tactics I would slowly plan for an inevitable parting of company with the owners.

  • In reply to Edward:

    I agree completely. The agents were right, and now the first legal battles will hit where the owners choose rather than the players.

    Of course, if the players decertify, they could still sue the league over the draft, rookie salary scale, trades, and other things concurrently in another state (I assume).

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    If the Players filed an anti-trust suit in another state the Owners would move to have the two suits consolidated in the original forum (Southern District of New York - SDNY). And that motion would likely be granted as the two parties are identical in both lawsuits.

    For the Players to successfully litigate an anti-trust lawsuit in another forum/state I believe they would have to wait until the Owners lawsuit in SDNY concluded before they filed. And that would likely be too long a wait.

    But we should consult with the Bulls Confidential staff attorney before we issue a formal opinion!

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