NEW YORK — With stars from veteran Kevin Garnett to rookie of the year Blake Griffin standing behind him, union president Derek Fisher said Thursday players won't accept a bad deal to avert a work stoppage.
"We'd love to avoid a lockout, but we're unified in the sense of not being afraid if that's what we're faced with," the Lakers guard said.
Player representatives from each team were in town for their summer meeting and were updated on the negotiations with owners. The collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, and the sides remain far apart headed into a session today.
Garnett, the Celtics' Paul Pierce, the Clippers' Griffin, the Hornets' Chris Paul and the Mavericks' Jason Terry were among 60 players at the front of the news conference.
"It's unfortunate, to be honest, because we have great momentum right now," said Garnett, whose massive contract in Minnesota was a catalyst for the changes owners sought that led to the 1998 lockout.
"I think the league is, as far as anticipation and the leading stories and the careers that you can follow — you know, (the Mavericks') Dirk (Nowitzki) finally winning (an NBA title) — there's multiple stories that are intriguing right now, and it's just unfortunate that we're all going through this to sort of slow that down."
"A lockout is something that we are trying to avoid by making multiple offers that treat our players fairly," league spokesman Michael Bass said. "We are dismayed by the union's unfortunate rhetoric."
The league proposed a "flex" salary cap, in which teams would be targeted to spend $62 million but could exceed that through the use of various exceptions. But it would have an eventual ceiling at an unspecified amount, so players consider it a hard cap.
It's similar to the NHL's salary cap system, which was instituted after a work stoppage in 2004-05 and which NBA union executive director Billy Hunter called "the worst deal in all of professional sports."
Hunter said NHL owners could win such an agreement only after breaking their players' union and contended NBA owners intend to lock out their players with similar hopes.
Matt Bonner of the Spurs, a former Gator who is a union vice president, said that the owners "want everything."
hawks: The team's ownership group denied an SI.com report that a sale is about to be consummated. Last month the same ownership group sold the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, who moved to Winnipeg.