The Other Lockout

The NFL’s labor issues have dominated the sports media in recent weeks.

But the spectre of a lockout is hanging over the NBA, too. With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire June 30, there isn’t much reason to believe that a new deal will be signed anytime soon.

The rhetoric flies back and forth. Players worry there could be a shortened or lost season — just like the one they lived through in 1998-99.

It could happen again in 2011-12.

“I hope there won’t be a lockout, but I’ve seen it before and you have to be prepared,” said Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups, who was in his second season when the last lockout took place.

“I tell young players all the time to save their money, invest wisely and be very smart because you just don’t know. If we miss an entire season, the young players — rookies or second-year players — will need to be prepared.”

Veteran forward Grant Hill understands the ramifications of a lost season, too.

“It’s not just the players,” the Suns star said. “It’s the league, the fans, the vendors, cab drivers, everyone in that city. It’s everyone who feels the impact.

“The economy isn’t as good as it used to be, so already it’s a disadvantage. From me personally, I love the NBA. I love everything about it. I don’t want to miss games. I don’t want people to lose income. We have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Let the countdown begin to June 30. And the players know they have a job to do in the meantime.

“We have to do our due diligence in being prepared; but at the same time, we have to keep focused on the task at hand,” said Suns point guard Steve Nash. “We have a job to do on the court.”

A primer on talks

The NBA has projected losses of approximately $350 million this season. But the players’ union disagrees.

NBA commissioner David Stern has said he wants to reduce salary costs by $750-$800 million annually. That means big pay cuts — something the players obviously aren’t terribly keen on.

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