Billy Hunter said earlier Friday that he fears much worse than canceled games if the lockout drags on.

“If everybody begins to dig into their respective positions, then I think the league will be decimated. It took us five years to recover from the 1998 lockout and there’s probability that we may never recover [from this lockout],” Hunter told ESPN before Friday’s sit-down with players. “I think there will be some teams that won’t survive. Particularly if the season gets shut down, there will be teams that will not be around next year.”

Hunter singled out the Sacramento Kings as a franchise that may fall victim to “forced contraction.”

If negotiations with the federal mediator next week fail to warrant any movement toward a deal, the players association hopes it has an ace up its sleeve as it awaits the National Labor Relations Board’s action on the unfair labor practices claim that the union filed back in May.

“It has been prolonged and I believe it has been prolonged because I believe they have taken this case serious,” union vice president Maurice Evans told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “The ruling could weigh heavily on these negotiations as it is the only legal verdict that could in fact end the lockout. We do expect to hear from them within the next two weeks.”

– Reported by J.A. Adande and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com

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