By Chris Sheridan
NEW YORK — The NBA will announce the postponement of training camps and exhibition games Friday, according to union director Billy Hunter, who dismissed the forthcoming move as the league “playing semantics.”
In an exclusive interview with SheridanHoops.com, Hunter said the league has made “glacial” movement recently in the amount of aggregate dollars they are willing to devote to player salaries, but those proposals have been hypothetical rather than formal.
“In general, we haven’t made any progress,” Hunter said. ”I really don’t think they’re ready to do a deal. My position is that they said 2 years ago they were prepared to lockout for a year to get what they wanted, and I think the way they’ve negotiated gives every indication that that’s bearing out.
“And while they’re talking about not wanting to miss the season or having to cancel games, I’m not really sure that that’s the truth,” Hunter said.
The sides are not expected to meet again until next week, after the owners’ labor relations committee caucuses to discuss whatever progress was or wasn’t made at Thursday’s five-plus hour bargaining session.
“Not much of anything got accomplished. We spent time talking, but we actually talked in terms of a two-pronged approach, one is economics and the other is the system. We’re still pretty far apart on the economics, so we agreed we’d get together next week and have more discussions on the system,” Hunter said.
As for reported here earlier this month, the sides began September $2.97 billion apart in aggregate dollars over the first six years of the proposed deal, with the owners seeking a 10-year agreement that would not raise players’ salaries and benefits to where they were last season – $2.19 billion — until Year 10.
In recent discussions, owners have shown a willingness to raise their annual dollar disbursement, although the numbers being bandied about have been fluid. And while the difference in aggregate dollars between the two sides appears to have been reduced by approximately $400-$600 million in negotiations over the past month, the hypothetical nature of those discussions makes it impossible to nail down exactly how much the financial gap has been narrowed.
Training camps are scheduled to open in the first week of October, and the first scheduled exhibition games are Oct. 9: Minnesota at Detroit, Memphis at Orlando, Utah at Portland, Golden State vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in Fresno, Calif., and New Orleans at San Antonio.
Commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and union president Derek Fisher said little of substance as they exited Thursday’s session, and the comments by Hunter echoed the party line but went just a little deeper.
“We’re talking, and we all agree that the only way to get a deal is to keep talking, and hopefully somewhere along the line there will be a breakthrough, but that’s not evident yet,” Hunter said. “What we’re willing to do vs. what they’re willing to do, and what they want us to do, we’re still at polar opposites.”