by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBA players’ union, has basically thrown in the towel when it comes to saving next season. As far as he’s concerned, there won’t be any NBA games played in 2011-2012.

Speaking to a group of lawyers and judges in Baltimore, Hunter spoke candidly about his gloomy outlook when it comes to negotiations with NBA team owners.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

“We’re $800 million apart per year,” Hunter told about 200 people during a seminar at a conference in Baltimore of the National Bar Association, an organization of predominantly African-American lawyers and judges. The union chief said NBA commissioner David Stern was being limited in negotiations by hard-line owners.

“The circumstances have changed among his constituency,” said Hunter, the executive director since 1996. “In the last six or seven years, there is a new group of owners to come in who paid a premium for their franchises, and what they’re doing is kind of holding his feet to the fire.” Because negotiators are dug in, Hunter said “something has to happen that both of us can use as leverage to save face.”

Asked by a conference attendee whether there would be a 2011-12 season, he replied: “If I had to bet on it at this moment, I would probably say no.”

Well, that’s not very encouraging.

Following every meeting between players and owners since the lockout began, a heavy fog of negativity and distrust has emerged from both sides.

This is just the latest salvo in an endlessly depressing fight that’s nowhere near a resolution. Fun!