Derek Fisher, president of the NBA players' union, addresses reporters… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)
With about 30 locked-out NBA players and union President Derek Fisher by his side after a regional meeting at a Beverly Hills hotel on Friday, union Executive Director Billy Hunter pointedly expressed his and the players' resolve to stand firm in the face of recent threats.
Fisher and Hunter even chastised one player for his comments about players maybe wanting to "fold."
NBA Commissioner David Stern had said that if the two sides can't reach an agreement Tuesday, his "gut" tells him they will lose the Christmas Day games.
The league has already canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, leaving Stern to threaten that a deal could only get worse for the players as time goes on.
Hunter said it would get "worse for both" because the players and owners would lose substantial amounts of money.
"If somebody is pointing a gun at my head, I'm going to point one back at him," Hunter said. "That door doesn't swing one way. It's not just the players that are going to suffer if there are games lost. …The pain is mutual. If you're going to inflict pain on the players, then there is some pain inflicted on them as well."
Fisher also took exception with Stern's comments about canceling the Christmas Day games.
"That's an arbitrary deadline to throw out on Commissioner Stern's part. We don't see it that way," Fisher said. "Obviously he's entitled to make a statement, but it just seems very arbitrary and with no real purpose other than to try to sway players' sentiment."
Fisher quickly let it be known that the players aren't about to fold.
Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee, the first player to depart from the three-hour-plus meeting well before it was over, left the media with a poignant comment.
"Definitely some guys in there saying that they are ready to fold," McGee said. "But the majority are ready to stand strong."
Said Fisher: "Let me say this: The person that spent the least amount of time in the room can't make that statement. He's in no position to make that statement on behalf of the group."
Both the owners and players will meet with federal mediator George Cohen on Tuesday in New York to see whether he can help the two sides resolve the dispute.
"We'll continue to try and see if we can strike and reach a deal that saves our season," Fisher said. "But the season being saved ultimately is not a decision that is one-sided. It largely rests in the commissioner's hands and in the NBA's hands."
Fisher said the players have negotiated from receiving 57% of basketball-related income to 53%, which Fisher said would be "equivalent to approximately $1.1 billion over six years" to the owners.
But the owners want a 50-50 split, which the players rejected.
"We feel that's a significant, not modest, but a significant contribution to trying to help get our game back in order," Fisher said. "To have the NBA and have the league to hang the entire season in the balance in the face of those types of concessions, we obviously don't agree with that view and that stance at all."