LOS ANGELES - The NBA and the Players Association remain far apart on many issues involving collective bargaining after a meeting Friday that included many of the league's All-Stars. Saturday night, commissioner David Stern sounded resigned to the fact that, with just four months before the current CBA expires, a lockout might be inevitable. But both sides are committed to meeting on a regular basis to continue negotiations.

Said Stern, "We will hopefully be able to assure our fans that we did all we could possibly do to have a replacement agreement in effect.''

The league, despite increased television and season ticket sales revenue, is projecting a $350-million loss this season and is looking to reduce the percentage of revenue the players have claimed in the current system by implementing a more restrictive system.

"I have to prepare the players for a lockout," union executive director Billy Hunter said Friday. "Because the owners continue to assert that they have to have the kind of concessions that they've called for, then a lockout is all but inevitable."

The NBA has had labor peace for more than a decade after the 1998-99 season was shortened because of a lockout that preceded the current CBA. Hunter said in November that he was "99 percent" sure there would be a lockout. On Friday he softened his stance, but only a little.

"I'm confident that absent some major change in their position, there will be a lockout," Hunter said. "I haven't seen anything yet that indicates to me that they're willing to make the kind of change in position that the union deems necessary in order for us to get a deal . . . We have no choice but to prepare for a lockout. We've been through this in '98 and the cards seem to be stacking up the same way they stacked up then."

Stern said there is a need for "a sustainable business model that enables 30 teams to be able to compete for a championship that fairly compensates our union members." He never used the term hard cap, but it seems clear the league wants the new system to do away with the soft cap and luxury tax method that it has operated under since 1999.

The NFL also faces the possibility of a lockout, and commissioner Roger Goodell said he would cut his $10-million salary to $1 in the event of a lockout. Stern reminded that during the 1998 lockout, he did not take a salary. "I think a dollar would be too high," he said, "in the event of a work stoppage."

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