LOS ANGELES -- The NBA players' union and the team owners are far apart in their labor dispute, having failed to strike a compromise in two years of on-and-off bargaining.
Their latest meeting, a two-hour session Friday afternoon at a Beverly Hills hotel, was the first since November. It appeared to produce no meaningful progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement that would prevent a potential lockout after the old one expires June 30.
"I'm going to tell my guys to prepare for a lockout," Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association, said at a news conference later in the day in downtown Los Angeles.
Hunter said the players would make "every effort to negotiate."
"We want to get a deal," Hunter said. "Our guys do not want to be locked out.
"But still given no choice -- and that's what I said to (the owners) -- if you don't give us any choice, and our only alternative is to fight, then we will fight."
NBA Commissioner David Stern, asked how the meeting went, rolled his eyes and said, sarcastically, "Oh, just great."
About 23 players were present, including Lakers guard and Players Association President Derek Fisher and All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.
Roughly the same number of owners were present, among them the Charlotte Bobcats' Michael Jordan and the Lakers' Jerry Buss.
"It went pretty much as you would imagine," Buss said of the meeting. "Both sides basically said they were very much interested in reaching an agreement."
The owners, claiming projected losses of about $350 million this season, want to implement a hard salary cap. They also want non-guaranteed contracts and are seeking to lessen the length and value of contracts.
The players, who contend that the league isn't losing money, oppose pay cuts and non-guaranteed contracts, and Hunter has called a hard cap "a nonstarter."
Fisher said if a lockout occurs it won't be because the players are opposed to striking a deal.
"Players want to play basketball," he said. "There isn't anything we want more than to play basketball."
The last NBA lockout occurred in the 1998-99 season, which was shortened by 32 games, to 50.
The Lakers this week announced a 20-year agreement, beginning in the 2012-13 season, with Time Warner Cable to create a regional network that will broadcast all Lakers games that are not nationally telecast. Some industry experts believe the deal is worth close to $3 billion.
"Everyone knows about that one, I can assure you," Hunter said about the Lakers deal, which the players view as an indicator of growing NBA wealth.
Hunter said that one of the players asked the owners at the meeting, "If you're talking about wanting us to give back, are you willing to reduce the number of games that we play in the course of a season . . . ?"
"Nobody answered his question," Hunter said.
Hunter said the players are aware of the harm a lockout could cause for both sides.
"It's going to hurt all of us," Hunter said. "It's going to hurt everybody associated and connected with NBA basketball."