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Union head Hunter: “We don’t want to be totally exploited”

Oct 24, 2011, 6:13 PM EDT


NBA players union director Bill Hunter sat down with Bill Simmons for an ESPN podcast.

Hunter didn’t break a lot of new ground, but you again get to see the players thinking — that the owners are trying to exploit them by driving down salaries so the ultra rich can get richer. Sure, the players will make a lot of money still but it’s an issue of fairness to them (and as long as it remains such they will not break).

Go listen to the whole thing, but here are a few highlights.

• Hunter: “I thought we were trying to reach compromise when we were there last week. I suspect it’s more about an internal battle that may be brewing or that’s occurring between the big and small markets over the proposals we’ve submitted. We don’t want to be totally exploited.”

(So, only partially exploited is okay?)

• Hunter: “I know there’s a struggle when we talk wealth, you’re going to say to me we’re talking about billionaires and millionaires. Well, a guy making a few dollars during his playing career, but most of our players when they end playing basketball, they’re going to be living for another 40 years or so. And I don’t know how long that money’s going to last, even if they’ve made every prudent investment they can possibly make, at what level they’re going to be able to live.

“But after a while it just become a principle. For a lot of these players, that’s what it’s about. They feel as though the owners have dug in.”

• Hunter talked about a “game changer” plan brought up by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a system that would not have had a salary cap. The players were open to whatever that idea was, but Hunter said the small market owners shot it down.

• Hunter didn’t say much about Bryant Gumbel’s comments, other than to say David Stern is nota racist.

• There was one ray of hope. Almost. Hunter hinted that the players would be willing to give on their call of 53 percent of basketball related income, but the players needed some give back on the “system issues” such as the luxury tax and contract lengths.

That’s usually how a negotiation works, give and take. It’s not what the owners are doing. They are going for the rout, demanding both a larger share of the revenue and changes to the existing system. Because there is no give and take from the owners, well, the players don’t think things are fair and they dig in.

And the NBA dies a little every day because of it.

  1. loza6984 - Oct 24, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    The players don’t understand that all teams have to have a chance to win it all. The big markets have an unfair advantage…small market owners have dug in. The model has to change and re-baselined. The rate of salary growth can’t be sustained. How many teams could have done what Miami did (Lebron, Wade, and Bosh). Just a handful of teams could pay them what they got. Those days are over!!!!

    • kinggw - Oct 24, 2011 at 10:31 PM

      Every team has a chance to win it all, the size of the market is irrelevant. Is San Antonio a large market? Sacramento, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Indiana all had their chances over the past 10-15 years. The key to fielding a championship level team has more to do with how the team is managed not the locale. The market size is just the latest excuse from a bunch of owners who want security from taking financial risks. If you give players like Elton Brand, Eddy Curry and Rashard Lewis big money its no ones fault but your own. The players arent angels but the owners are to blame for the stalemate.

      By the way Miami is far from a large market and any team could have did what the Heat did, they just have to have the same patience and forethought. Riley was smart enough to know that several big free agents would be available in the summer of 2010. He made sure the Heat would have no major obligations and the resources to sign two or three big names. What was so hard about that? Dont blame the market size blame your GM.

    • leearmon - Oct 24, 2011 at 11:51 PM

      Larger markets do not guarantee a championship. I don’t know where this idea has come from, but it has no truth behind it at all. Yes the Lakers have won 5 championships since 2000, the team who is right behind them, San Antonio! The Knicks, Nets and Clippers, who I remind you, play in markets #1 & #2 respectively have been dormant franchises for the majority of the last 15 years. Ask yourself who would you rather be a fan of, the 76ers (top 10 market) or the Thunder? (market #48) Its really comical actually. Bottom line, if you have a strong front office, no matter where your team is located, you will have a great chance of winning. Also, the majority of moves made in the NBA do not come in free agency. Look at the biggest stars in the league, with the exception of Lebron (who most now call a choker, so who would want him anyway? – sarcasm) Kobe – draft day trade. Dirk-drafed. Rose-drafted. Duncan-drafted. Howard-drafted. Nash-left larger market for small market. Pierce-drafted, .Durant-drafted etc. Most players who switch teams in free agency are either 2nd tier players, or guys who score a lot of points for one or two years, and owners over spend making a horrible decision setting their franchises back at least 5 years. Im looking at you Gilbert Arenas.

  2. goforthanddie - Oct 24, 2011 at 9:36 PM

    “We don’t want to be totally exploited.”

    Isn’t the minimum contract possible good for 6 figures? Hard to cry exploitation pal.

    • somekat - Oct 25, 2011 at 9:53 AM

      500k is the minimum for a rookie, goes up as you have more experience

      poor little orphan boys!

  3. therealhtj - Oct 24, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    System issues won’t fix the ability of ANY team to win a championship. Unless you draft or can attract as a free agent a transcendent superstar, your odds of getting a ring are about 1 in 50.

    What the system being turned on it’s head will fix is the ability of ALL teams to put forth a competitive product, year-in, year-out. Without albatross guaranteed contracts clogging up a teams cap space, the chance to at least be competitive is much more within reach. As a fan of the entire NBA, I’m all for it. Unfortunately, the entire dispute is far more about BRI split ($$$$) then system issues and putting forth a better product.

    I also can’t help but laugh every time I hear some irate poster talk about cutting ticket prices, cuz that’s really gonna happen.

    And Lord Hunter needs to look up exploitation in the dictionary.

  4. loza6984 - Oct 24, 2011 at 9:55 PM

    Agree on the “competitive” team/product. However, unless salaries/business model is fixed the NBA won’t prosper and might not survive. That’s what this lockout is about. The vast majority of fans can’t afford to go to a game (much less an 82-game season plus playoffs).

  5. passerby23 - Oct 24, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    Do NBA players ever think about investing some of their 6 or 7-figure salaries as opposed to spending it all and then complaining that they have another 40 years to live? How about planning for a part-time job once they’re done playing? Do you really think it would be difficult for an ex-NBA player to find a freakin’ job!?

    More importantly, the longer this rides out, the worse off the players are going to be. Already the fans’ impatience lies mostly with the players. Cut a deal now and save yourself the inevitable hardship that will come to the players the longer this drags out.

    • Kurt Helin - Oct 25, 2011 at 2:27 PM

      Some NBA players do invest and make smart decisions with their money, some do not. Look at it this way folks: If you had millions in your bank at 22, would you have made a bunch of smart decisions for the long term?

      • passerby23 - Oct 25, 2011 at 11:43 PM

        Frivolous spending of money by young players having a bearing on their future retirement isn’t really a concern of most fans. If someone won a $10 million lottery at 22 and blew it all and then complained that the lottery should’ve been $20 million because they “can’t retire”, would anyone have pity on them? Is the Union asking for LOWER salaries so young players don’t squander their earnings away?

        As I mentioned, the longer this goes, the worse it’s going to be on the players anyway. They’re going to have to cave.

  6. pellypell - Oct 25, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    “…but most of our players when they end playing basketball, they’re going to be living for another 40 years or so. And I don’t know how long that money’s going to last, even if they’ve made every prudent investment they can possibly make, at what level they’re going to be able to live.”

    If I guy can’t live on the 10 million or 100 million he made throughout his career, a few percentage points more isn’t going to make a damn difference.

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