Don't read this if you despise Billy Hunter quotes. Nick Anderson didn't hide his frustration. He said he felt retired, and well, he'd look it once the season would eventually start. Coming into training camp out of shape was almost common throughout many NBA rosters. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm still happy I got in a brief Halloween chat with Nick on Church Street Saturday night. Even though he's retired, Anderson is unfortunately going through the pains of another work stoppage.
The tone of labor negotiations between the NBA and its players turned sour Monday, one day before the Orlando Magic originally were scheduled to open the regular season.
Instead of cheers at Orlando Arena tonight, there will be silence. And with good reason.
Billy Hunter, executive director of the players union, predicted Monday that the season would not begin - if it ever does - before January.
The optimism that became a part of last week's bargaining turned to pessimism Monday.
``We are obviously much further apart on the economic issues than we were a week ago,'' said Hunter after a 21/2-hour meeting with the NBA. ``There appears to be some real fundamental differences in regard to the framework of our deal. We had one view today, and they had another.''
Magic veteran Nick Anderson, the only player left from Orlando's original team in 1989, said he won't go anywhere near the O-rena tonight, knowing it would only frustrate him more.
The suddenly worsening labor battle that has paralyzed the NBA - canceling what would have been the home opener against the Dallas Mavericks - has left Anderson in a foul mood.
``This has really become unbelievable,'' Anderson said. ``It's killing me. I know what I should be doing, - practicing, getting ready for the opener, getting really excited about the season. But instead, we've got this.''
Instead of building on his strong second-half finish last season, Anderson will be home watching television, wondering where it all will end.
``I don't see an end in sight,'' he said. ``I feel like I'm retired, and I hate it.''
Although the two sides are scheduled to meet in New York again Wednesday, Hunter said that an earlier perception that a deal was near just wasn't accurate.
Russ Granik, NBA deputy commissioner who also was part of Monday's session, reluctantly agreed.
``We are not close,'' Granik said. ``I don't think anything has changed from last week.''
Monday's meeting dealt primarily with secondary issues such as player conduct and discipline, salary-cap calculations and licensing agreements. But even on those issues, there was very little agreement.
``We made little or no progress today,'' Hunter said. ``I just don't want people now to be under a misperception. Unfortunately, we're just not on the same page right now. My gut tells me we won't be playing now until January.''
The NBA already has canceled all games in November. Both sides say they would need a minimum of three or four weeks from the time an agreement is signed until the season could begin.
The biggest problem in reaching an agreement has been determining what percentage of revenues would be devoted to player salaries by the time the new system has been in place a few years.
The owners have moved from their original offer of 48 percent to 50 percent. The players have dropped their offer from 63 to 60 percent. The gap remains wide. Of last season's $2 billion in revenue, 57 percent went to players in salary and benefits.
When the two sides met last week, both believed they had agreed upon a structure for their new deal. It included a luxury tax on the higher-end salaries to discourage spiraling payrolls.
It also included players putting a small percentage of their salaries into an escrow fund, which would go back to the owners if salaries exceeded a certain percentage.
``I never want to go through something like this again,'' Anderson said. ``I've never gone this long before without basketball. Not even close.''