Title says it all. Back then Hunter didn't want to take a bad deal. Well, he ended up taking a bad deal. History may very well repeat itself. Paychecks are officially about to be lost for good in a few days.
NBA players union Executive Director Billy Hunter said Wednesday that the Orlando Magic will be wasting their breath today when they address a handful of their players in their first face-to-face meeting in more than four months.
The Magic have invited the players to an informal gathering to discuss the league's latest proposal in collective bargaining talks, hoping to win some support for a deal that would allow the 1998-99 season to begin.
The two sides have been without a working agreement since July 1, costing the NBA at least the first six weeks of the season.
``Under no circumstances will we accept a bad deal, and that's what's out there now,'' Hunter said Wednesday after a meeting of union representatives in New York. ``Our players already know that. There won't be any breaking of the ranks [in the union].''
Since NBA Commissioner David Stern last week lifted his ban against any contact with the players, management personnel from around the league have been calling and meeting with players.
The league maintains that its latest proposal would benefit the vast majority of the players but says that the union leadership is misinforming them to protect the superstars who would be hurt by the deal.
``It's really just a negotiating ploy,'' said veteran center Danny Schayes, the Magic's player representative who attended Wednesday's meeting in New York. ``I'm sure ownership will try to pressure the union into signing this deal. But that's not going to happen. The players know what's going on. In some cases, I've found, the players already are more versed on the issues than some of the owners.''
The owners and the union have not met since Friday, although Hunter said he would talk with Stern today in an attempt to re-open negotiations. Neither side was optimistic Wednesday.
In the union meeting Wednesday, Hunter informed the player reps that a handful of agents are trying to organize an exhibition game in Las Vegas for the first week of December. He told them Michael Jordan would be involved, either as a player or as a coach.
``Right now, we're prepared to engage in compromise bargaining,'' Hunter said. ``But we've already made too many concessions. They [owners] haven't made any. We won't negotiate against ourselves.''
At issue is how to divide the estimated $2 billion in annual revenues. The owners want to restrict the players' share in salary and benefits to 50 percent. The players union wants that figure closer to 60 percent.
If no agreement is reached before the first week of December, the season would not start until 1999. If the bargaining continues through mid-December, the entire season could be canceled.
``We'll do everything in our power, short of taking a bad deal, to make sure there is a season,'' Hunter said. ``We're bogged down now, but I don't think the owners want to cancel the season either. They don't want to play Russian roulette.''
Under normal circumstances, the players would have been receiving their first paychecks on Sunday. They have no idea now when those first checks will come.
``He [Stern] has indicated that he does have another proposal. When he puts it out there remains to be seen,'' Hunter said. ``I think what he wants to do is sweat our players a little more and see whether there's any inclination on our part to want to submit. But we're committed to getting a good deal, however long it takes.''
At today's meeting, Bob Vander Weide, Magic team president, and John Gabriel, general manager, will address the players. Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant, Bo Outlaw, Gerald Wilkins and Johnny Taylor were in Orlando on Wednesday and are expected to attend.
Schayes will remain in New York with other union representatives from around the league. Derek Strong is in Los Angeles, and Darrell Armstrong is in Atlanta. Former Magic player Dennis Scott, who played last season with Phoenix, said he expects to be on a conference call with Suns officials Friday.