Hunter warns players of ‘flex’ cap

Billy Hunter's message to players: Don't be fooled by owners' offer

Players Association executive director Billy Hunter warned NBA players on Wednesday that the league’s proposal of a “hard-flex” salary cap would have grave consequences for the future earnings and security of rank-and-file union members.

The owners’ plan “would decimate the middle class, with teams using the bulk of their hard cap room on star players,” Hunter wrote to players in an email obtained by Yahoo! Sports.

Hunter stayed on his theme of disparaging the league’s offer of a flex cap, promising doomsday scenarios over the course of the 10-year deal the NBA has proposed to players. The letter was sent to the players as a prelude to Thursday’s bargaining session in New York that could be the final one before the league possibly imposes a lockout at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday.

In the key points Hunter tried to impart to players, he wrote: “… The owners have not backed off of a hard cap system, although they’ve added a middle tier and now refer to it as a ‘flex cap.’ Don’t be fooled by these semantics – the ceiling of the system is still an absolute barrier, so it produces the same harsh effects of a hard cap.

“…The owners have finally come off their demand that no contract may be fully guaranteed, but such a ‘concession’ is virtually meaningless within a hard cap system. General managers are far less likely to give players guarantees in a hard cap system because, without the benefit of the Larry Bird and other existing exceptions, they will need to leave room to re-sign key players and sign other players in future years.”

Hunter’s most important job now could be keeping his union together over what could be a long, contentious lockout. Owners are seeking unprecedented givebacks in the collective bargaining agreement talks, citing financial losses and competitive imbalances among big- and small-market teams. The union has pushed the league to consider more serious revenue-sharing plans to remedy the problem.

“We remain open to negotiations and continue to exchange dialogue and ideas with the NBA, but at last week’s summer meeting our player reps voiced their opinion loud and clear that we cannot sit back and allow the owners to so drastically alter the landscape we have created over the past half century,” Hunter wrote. “Right now the owners are asking for much more than we can give without a fight.”

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