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Hunter, Stern Agree To Disagree

The poor relationship between David Stern and Billy Hunter has deteriorated so much the union director decided Friday to give the commissioner another dose of the silent treatment.

Hunter again refused to place a telephone call to Stern, reneging on a vow he made Wednesday to touch base with his adversary and see if the process of ending the lockout can be moved forward.

Instead, Jeffrey Kessler, the outside lawyer for the union, called NBA chief legal officer Jeffrey Mishkin to say the union saw no point in a meeting.

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  • "If they say there's no point, then not much is likely to happen for a while," deputy commissioner Russ Granik said.

    The lack of progress was mind-boggling to many. There have been no meetings between the sides since last Friday, and there have been no full negotiating sessions since Oct. 28.

    The season cannot start until mid-December at the earliest.

    "I think they need to lock themselves in a room, put a port-o-potty in there and don't open the door until they come out with a deal," said Aaron Goodwin, a member of the union's agents' advisory committee. "At some point you've got to get something done. I think we're at that point."

    Some new details about the Oct. 28 session emerged Friday, including the fact Michael Jordan moved right to the top of the bargaining team on the first day he joined the fracas.

    During that session, small groups from each side went off to a separate room.

    Jordan, Hunter and Patrick Ewing represented the union team, and Stern, deputy commissioner Russ Granik and Hall of Famer Bob Lanier represented the owners.

    "I don't think we were that close in an objective sense," Granik said, "but we were heading in the right direction."

    After unofficial offers were tossed about by both sides, Stern and Granik left the room to speak to several owners. When they returned, the deal could not be closed. One of the few lockout-related events that took place this week was the union's status meeting Wednesday, after which Hunter said he would call Stern.

    A rumor spread after the meeting that some conciliatory players, including Steve Kerr, had been shouted down. Even Stern said that was what he had heard.

    "I don't think anybody got shouted down," countered agent Mark Bartelstein, who represents Kerr and 28 other players. "I think the whole idea of the meeting was for everybody to throw out all their thoughts and ideas, no matter how radical or conservative. That was the whole idea. They didn't want it to be a cheerleading session."

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