NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said on Thursday that the union is in the process of engineering a proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement and will submit it to the league before the end of June.
The league's owners and commissioner David Stern crafted a proposal and gave it to the players during All-Star weekend in Dallas in mid-February. The players were unanimously dismissive of the owners' plan to virtually redefine the parameters of an agreement that Stern said will force the owners to lose as much as $400 million combined this year.
Hunter said during a news conference in Dallas that he and the players' leadership told owners they would create their own, separate proposal, though he left open the date for handing over that proposal. Now, he says, he is instituting a soft deadline.
"We are demonstrating an open-ended willingness and desire to get a deal done instead of just talking about it," Hunter told SI.com. "This is about good will. Our timing will give the owners the entire summer to review what it is we are proposing and decide what they want to do next."
Hunter declined to discuss specifics of the union's proposal, in part he said because he is still working on putting it together. Surely, though, it is going to be far less cutting than the owners' desire to trim the size and length of contracts, which they hope to prevent from being fully guaranteed; to implement a hard salary cap; to reduce the players' percentage of Basketball Related Income from 57 to 40; and to modify players' existing contracts to fit into the new model.
"I am actually having a series of meetings today about the very subject that we are discussing," Hunter said. "When we have something in place that we feel is ready to be presented to ownership, we'll let everybody know."
The one thing the timing of the union's proposal ensures is that this summer's free agent bonanza, which includes teams pursuing the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, will go off as planned.
Though they could not have expected it, the owners hoped to have a new collective bargaining agreement in place before the July 1 start of free agency, which would redefine the rules of players receiving contracts that will, in some cases, exceed $100 million. Hunter also acknowledged that by presenting their proposal so early, it would help lay the foundation for a new collective bargaining agreement before the existing one expires next June 30.
If some agreement is not reached by then, the owners will lock out the players until a new deal can be put into place.
"You're probably right, we probably won't get anything done until next year," Hunter said. "But we have an obligation to present a proposal like we told the owners we would. I have been through this (collective bargaining) process three times. So I think there is some benefit to it."