Remind me not to believe in any of Billy Hunter's predictions. He assumed Michael Jordan wouldn't retire because of his Airness' massive involvement in these player-owner sit-downs. Interesting that MJ now-a-days isn't very vocal since he's moved to the other side of the table. Still waiting on an NBA superstar to truly step up.
NEW YORK - By suddenly taking such an active role in the labor negotiations that have paralyzed the NBA, Michael Jordan may have tipped his hand concerning his future plans.
When - or if - this season ever starts, Jordan likely will be in uniform again with the Chicago Bulls. His retirement talk isn't being taken very seriously anymore.
``When we get this thing settled, we can expect Michael Jordan to come back,'' said union Executive Director Billy Hunter after spending the past few days with him. ``He hasn't exactly said that, but I'm prepared to predict it.''
After three days of bargaining, the league and the union took off Thursday, with both sides huddling to re-evaluate their latest positions. Their last bargaining session - which went on for eight hours - ended Thursday at 1:05 a.m.
The only discussion later in the day was a phone conversation between Jeffrey Kessler, outside counsel for the union, and Jeffrey Mishkin, the NBA's lead attorney. Although there is no scheduled bargaining session for today, both sides said that one could be set up quickly in the morning.
``At least we've got some great dialogue going right now,'' Jordan said after the latest session ended early Thursday. ``In terms of how close and how far away we are, that's hard to determine right now. We're starting to understand each other's position. Is that improvement? Yes, I would say so.''
Jordan has been non-committal about whether he would play again, but his actions suggest otherwise. He gave an emotional speech to the union membership last week in Las Vegas, then he dominated their meeting Wednesday in New York.
The labor/management battle has sparked his competitive desire.
``I owe it to the union as a veteran to step forward,'' Jordan said. ``It's a pride thing. I want the players of tomorrow to have the same opportunities that I had.''
Although Jordan is neither an officer in the players union nor a member of its negotiating team, he was very active in the two bargaining sessions Wednesday. And he expects to return for the next one.
``It's not the players who caused this. We want to play. We'll play with the old rules,'' Jordan said. ``I think the owners just want to maximize their profits. There's money to be made. But why penalize us because the owners can't control their own spending?''
The two sides have settled on much of the framework of the system they want. It's the split of the money involved - what percentage of revenues the players will receive in salary - that they are negotiating.
The owners have backed away from an earlier insistence that player salaries be reduced from 57 percent to 48 percent during the new agreement. The players, meanwhile, have come down from the 63 percent they originally wanted.
``There are still some wide gaps that separate the sides,'' NBA Commissioner David Stern said. ``But at least we identified the sizes of the gaps between us.''
Said Jordan: ``We have to keep plugging away at this. There has to be a feeling of compromise.''