At the halfway point of an already whirlwind season,union leader Billy Hunter is pleased overall while still reserving judgment about the game in the aftermath of the prolonged lockout.

“Obviously the TV ratings are up. The attendance is up. Merchandising is up. So all the signs are positive,that’s what I’m getting from [commissioner] David [Stern],’’Hunter said yesterday. “The early report is that things are positive.’’

After a summer and fall spent haggling mostly over revenue sharing,Hunter said the union is waiting to see the first official revenue figures from the league.

Hunter said he’s not at all surprised that the league has rebounded so swiftly after a contentious summer.

– Reported by the Associated Press