Reporting from Dallas — So much for the era of good feeling.
NBA Players Assn. Director Billy Hunter, who held a love-in with Commissioner David Stern at the 2009 All-Star game, said Friday the players have just told the league its new contract proposal is a "non-starter," and it was then withdrawn by the owners' negotiating committee.
FOR THE RECORD:
NBA contract: An article in Saturday's Sports section about a contract proposal by the National Basketball Assn. said the plan, which was later withdrawn, contained provisions including the modification of existing contracts, "something no U.S. professional league has ever sought." Players and owners in the National Hockey League agreed to cut all existing contracts by 24% under terms of ending their labor dispute in 2005. —
Hunter said the proposal called for lower salaries, shorter deals, elimination of guaranteed contracts and, in something no U.S. professional league has ever sought, much less gotten, modification of existing contracts.
Hunter said the players' reaction "was like shock and awe."
With the current collective bargaining agreement running through the 2010-11 season, these talks were aimed at getting a new deal before then.
Unfortunately, whichever one of them it was, someone's aim was off.
Stern and his committee met Friday with Hunter, union President Derek Fisher, the executive board and almost half of this year's All-Stars, led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.
"After a contentious 90-minute session, it was agreed that the owners would tear up their proposal," Hunter said.
"So that proposal is, for all intents and purposes, off the table.
"The NBA is anxious to get a deal between now and July of this year, because of the number of marquee free agents out on the market. But at this moment, there is no proposal, or at least anything that we're recognizing."
With Stern's annual news conference scheduled for Saturday, the night before the All-Star game, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver confined the league's response to noting:
" . . . We do not agree with the Players Association's characterization of today's meeting or the status of the NBA's bargaining proposal."
Whether Hunter is invited to make another appearance with the commissioner remains to be seen, but that will signal how cordial Stern feels now.
A year ago at the All-Star game in Phoenix, when Stern invited Hunter to appear with him, they did everything but hug.
With Stern noting the consequences of the economic slowdown, Hunter said the players were willing to reopen talks on a new deal to help the owners.
"We all understand that we live and benefit from the success of the NBA," Hunter said a year ago. "The last thing we want to do is see it lose its vitality."
The NBA owners committee then had two meetings with the union's executive board to discuss the issues, with the atmosphere still cordial.
The NBA's proposal, delivered two weeks ago, ended that.
"We left those meetings feeling the relationship was not necessarily friendly, because in business, there aren't really friends, per se, but amicable," Fisher said.
"[The players felt] that we were on the same page in trying to become partners and not just being players versus owners.
"So when we received this particular proposal, it was just the opposite of that. We were just a little taken aback."
The league did not confirm any details of its proposal.
According to Hunter, the players' current 57% of basketball related income, known as BRI, would be cut to 50% -- after owners deduct expenses.
Using Hunter's numbers, last season's BRI was $3.7 billion, of which the players got $2.1 billion.
Under the escrow provision in the current deal, when their actual contracts came in above $2.1 billion, each player had to rebate 8% of his pay to arrive at the agreed-on 57%.
Thus, Kobe Bryant, who made $23.1 million, had to give up $1.85 million.
Under the new proposal, according to Hunter, owners would deduct their expenses -- $1 billion -- and split the remaining $2.7 billion with players.
That would boost the owners from $1.6 billion to $2.35 billion, and drop the players from $2.1 billion to $1.35 billion.
Stern, a former litigating lawyer and a speaker with few peers, will give his version Saturday.
Aside from acknowledging they met and agreeing on who was in the room, Stern's account is expected to agree with Hunter's in exactly 0.0 respects.
What will be will then be -- but not until the summer of 2011, when this deal ends.
The players can't be locked out before, so they can make a deal sooner or strike menacing poses for 16 months. In good news for however many NBA fans remain, the game's on until July 1, 2011, at least.