Will there be a NBA season?

Taking the posturing to a new level as the lockout begins its second month, the executive director of the players union suggested Wednesday the season is already in jeopardy, telling a conference at the National Bar Assn. in Baltimore that “If I had to bet on it at this moment, I would probably say” there will not be a 2011-12.

“We’re $800 million apart per year,” Billy Hunter, the head of the National Basketball Players Assn. told about 200 people during a seminar at the conference, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The NBA declined comment.

In the same Sun story, Hunter said David Stern was being limited by some owners in negotiations, insisting the commissioner take a hard line in trying to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“In the last six or seven years, there is a new group of owners to come in who paid a premium for their franchises, and what they’re doing is kind of holding his feet to the fire,” Hunter said.

So it is we have reached a new stage of the labor dispute: Stern portrayed as a puppet. That’ll get a few laughs around the league.

While Hunter’s words are ominous, they also come with the usual, if unspoken, disclaimer that these are the things people say in heated public negotiations. Same with statements from Stern and other league officials. Things get said. Things get settled.

Hunter could turn out to be right from months away – no one would be shocked if the lockout carries into the season, at which point the calendar becomes as much of an opponent as the other side at the negotiating table. But for now, it’s more gut feeling than fact. It might even be another scare tactic.

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