DALLAS, Texas — NBA commissioner David Stern has said the league is projecting losses of some 400 million dollars this season, and has lost hundreds of millions in each year of the current labor contract.
Stern said the NBA has shown the players' association those numbers in hopes of demonstrating why the league wants "significant changes" in the next deal.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires in July 2011, and this weekend's All-Star festivities come amid rumblings that players and management are far apart on the issues and labor unrest or even a work stoppage could be in the league's future.
The league's first proposal for a deal to replace the one that expires next year was thrown out on Friday after what Billy Hunter, director of the players' union, called a "contentious" 90-minute meeting.
Hunter said the proposal called for harsh changes that would affect every NBA player.
Stern, in his annual All-Star press conference, said such changes may seem harsh, but the league believes significant action is necessary.
"The right adjectives were thrown around, and our proposal appropriately denounced. Our response is, 'You can denounce it, tear it up, you can burn it, you can jump up and down on it, as long as you understand that it reflects the financial realities of where we are,"' Stern said.
"And if you would like to have your own proposal, as long as it comes back and deals with our financial realities, that's OK with us. That's fine with us. In fact, that's what we would like to do."
Hunter said Friday that the union wanted to preserve the NBA brand, but wants an equitable agreement.
"I think that everybody has a different sense of things and nobody wants to see this thing that David Stern has worked and built, the NBA, the successful entity that it is, the brand, we're not out to damage it or destroy it," Hunter said.
"So we're going to make every effort to get an agreement done, we just want an agreement that's a lot more equitable and one that doesn't have a structure that's oppressive."
While Stern criticized the union's behavior at Friday's meeting as "theatrical," he was also harshly critical of anonymous comments by NBA team executives that amped up the bargaining rhetoric.
"If you know me, and you know our owners, that's not what we do," he said. "That's not us. And the players were upset with those quotes, which I find cowardly, if they were actually said," Stern said. "And if I ever found out who said them, they would be dealt with. They would be former, former NBA people, not current. And we assured the stars of that."
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