by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

Billy Hunter, the man in charge of representing NBA players in a battle against team owners that they have virtually no chance of winning, is no longer mincing words.

When it comes to the possibility of another lockout, it’s not a matter of “if” but of “when” and “how long”.

To listen to Hunter tell it, you’d better get your fill of NBA action next season, because after that, there likely won’t be much basketball to watch.

From ESPN:

In response to NBA commissioner David Stern’s assertion that the league lost $370 million last season, the head of the players’ union claimed Wednesday that Stern’s numbers are as much as $370 million off base. Union director Billy Hunter made that statement in a telephone interview with ESPN.com, saying the commissioner’s assertion of the severity of the owners’ financial woes “just doesn’t hold water.”

The sides have started negotiations toward a new one but remain far apart, creating fears of the first work stoppage since 1998-99. “I’m preparing for a lockout right now and I haven’t seen anything to change that notion. Hopefully I’ll see something over the next several months,” Hunter said. “As of this moment, it’s full speed ahead for me in preparing the players for a worst-case scenario.”

Hunter, who also spoke Wednesday to several other news organizations, said the players do not believe the owners’ claim that they lost a combined $370 million last season — a statement Stern reiterated in public comments Monday following an owners’ meeting in Las Vegas.

This is just depressing. What it isn’t, though, is surprising.

Naturally, Billy Hunter concluded his comments to the press by predicting that things will work out, and that “cooler heads will prevail.” It’s a claim no one truly believes, and that includes Billy Hunter.