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SBD/March 22, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies
Billy Hunter Disputes NBA's Financial Claims, Says NBPA Won't Agree To Hard Cap
Published March 22, 2011
BILLY'S CLUB: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski reported Hunter, during an address to NBA players over All-Star weekend with Stern, "had a different plan" this year than in the past, "unleashing an inspired soliloquy to frame the gathering storm of labor strife." The speech "may have just transformed the way the biggest stars in the sport see him." The room was "thick with league executives, coaches and players on the afternoon of Feb. 19, and they listened to Hunter insist he couldn’t come in good faith and tell them everything was well within the NBA." Hunter said that the owners "had made a crippling proposal, a long lockout loomed and these players in the room would bear the biggest financial and public relations burden of a work stoppage." He "dropped dramatic, long pauses and left everyone -- including Stern, who had started barking into the ear of his deputy, Adam Silver -- thinking that Hunter had come to advocate the players make some kind of bold stand themselves." Wojnarowski reported Stern "would barely even look at Hunter when Hunter handed him the microphone," and the players "could see the anger rising" within the commissioner. Several players in that meeting contend that Stern then "told the room he knows where 'the bodies are buried' in the NBA," because he "had buried some of them himself." Bulls G Derrick Rose recounts, "It was shocking. I was taking off my gear, and when he said that, I just stopped and thought, ‘Whoa ...' I couldn't believe that he said that." Wojnarowski noted for "all the talk of the players’ disjointed ranks, Hunter had gone a long way toward cementing the support of his most important constituents." Rose: "Especially Billy talking like that with David in the room, it makes you feel good." Hunter more recently said of Stern, "I don’t think he has the sway that he once did. I’m not saying that he’s not the commissioner and does not have the power to act. But I don’t know that he has the unfettered, undying support that he had before. There’s maybe a little crack in the dike" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21).