Eight stars — most clients of Falk's — then took home 15 percent of the players' share, with Michael Jordan at $30million in salary when the cap was $30 million ... the equivalent of $58million today, with a $58million cap.

Falk packed the union board with clients (Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Juwan Howard) who opposed capping salaries while increasing minimums, in a heroic defense of high-end players (themselves).

Said Ewing of low-end players: "They make a lot of money but they spend a lot of money, too."

Only an 11th-hour uprising by the rank-and-file enabled Hunter to make a deal in the early hours of Jan. 6, hours before the owners were to vote on shutting down.

The New York Times' Murray Chass, whose frame of reference was the baseball players union, then torched Hunter, who had just helped save the season.

Why lock players out for show, with no revenue or salary at risk for months?

To avoid losing revenue and salary, which would really upset everyone.

Now they have three months to torture each other, make a deal and climb aboard their golden goose.

What if they just kept talking?

The later it went, the more leverage would tilt to the players.

In 1994, commissioner Bud Selig started the baseball season without a bargaining agreement.

In August, the union struck, giving the owners a choice between caving or losing the postseason.

The owners lost their postseason, but haven't messed with the union since, leaving them the only major U.S. league without a salary cap and payrolls ranging from the Yankees' $202 million to the Royals' $36 million.

Why not split the difference now, as they're likely to whenever this ends?

Both sides think the other will crack.

What next?

More pretend bargaining sessions, before breaking off for a month or so.

The real action will be elsewhere, in the NFL, which will have an impact.

If the NFL starts on time, there will be pressure on the NBA to do it too, or look like an unruly kindergarten.

If not, the NBA has perfect cover.