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Union boss Hunter is happy; Attendance, TV ratings are showing positive signs

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

Hunter spoke Saturday in advance of tonight's All-Star Game (7:30 p.m., TNT).

"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 (NBA Commissioner) David (Stern)," Hunter said Saturday. "The early report is that things are positive."

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

Early indications are the players will be pleased with what they eventually see.

The league shares its financial projections with the players' association on a quarterly basis, and the next update is in March. Adam Silver, the NBA's deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, has informally conveyed to Hunter that the numbers are higher than expected.

There are several reasons for the positive numbers, but Hunter did allude to the recent surge in popularity of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin as one possible culprit.

Hunter said he's not at all surprised that the league has been able to rebound so swiftly after a contentious summer.

"I believed that the electricity was in the air and what was going to happen was the same thing that happened to football," Hunter said. "(There was) just a groundswell of support when the NFLPA and NFL got their deal. Everybody was concerned of whether there would be a problem or downturn, and it didn't happen.

"I think the appearance of some of the new talent that they either weren't aware of before or the ones that we've seen that have kind of upped their game, and I think it's a time where people are impressed and turned on."

Hunter said he's not ready to offer judgment on the CBA that allowed for a compressed season.

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