NBA owners, players brace for a lockout

Originally Published: November 12, 2004
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
In February, NBA commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter sat together at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles and smoked a peace pipe.

Hand in hand, the two bitter enemies claimed they already were talking about the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with an eye toward coming to a compromise in the summer.

"Recognizing that it seems to be part of labor lore that you have to be under some kind of deadline to get the final deal done, we'll give it our shot," Stern said.

"I've indicated to David and to the owners that we are going to make every effort to try to reach an agreement between now and the end of the summer," Hunter said, "knowing that if we don't, it's pretty difficult to negotiate during the season because the players generally are unavailable."

Their hope was to avoid another nasty lockout, one similar to what the league went through in 1998 and resembling the one the NHL is embroiled in now.

However, eight months later, the two sides are no closer to agreement. The players are clinging to the hope the owners will keep the status quo. The owners are looking for huge concessions that limit the financial losses that occur because of the frequent, ridiculous contracts they sign players to each summer.

And everyone, from players to agents to GMs and owners, are talking about the unthinkable – another lockout.

"I expect that they'll lock us out," a player close to the negotiating process told Insider on the condition of anonymity. "From what I've seen so far, they are really trying to roll back every concession they made to us in the last round. I'm telling my teammates to start saving their money."

That view is held widely throughout the league right now, despite recent rosy public pronouncements by Stern and Hunter.

Will the players really be locked out once the current collective bargaining agreement expires July 1?

Insider made calls to a number of people on both sides of the issue who are directly involved in the negotiating process. Here's what the two sides are bickering over and how they can avoid a labor war this summer.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer