Calling David Stern’s anti-charm offensive aimed at Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher last week,”like watching (Michael) Jordan in his prime”, CBS Sports’ Ken Berger warns, “(Stern’s) legacy legacy will be disfigured if he doesn’t lift his foot off the players’ throats and put style points aside to achieve a victory that, while not a blowout, will be far more meaningful.”

For all of Stern’s masterful manipulation Thursday, the reality is this: the players have offered to surrender more than $1 billion of their previous salaries, have offered shorter contracts, smaller raises, more restrictions on big-market spending, and have dug in only on the issues of a technical hard salary cap and guaranteed contracts. Stern’s negotiation position has made it seem like a victory that the players have managed to preserve even that much, while somehow thwarting the owners’ quest to re-open previously signed contracts and suck money out of them, too.

We get it, David. You’re winning. You have all the leverage, and barring a legal miracle or the unrealistic notion that decertifying the union will work for the NBPA any better than it did for the NFLPA, you’re going to win. It’s reality.

But don’t lose sight of the fine line between victory and defeat — because Hunter won’t concede in a blowout, and a blowout is a loss for everyone. At this point, the only way to get a deal that saves the season, saves your legacy and spares your product an insurmountable PR disaster, is to negotiate one with Hunter. Keep running up the score, keep piling on, and that deal won’t be reached. The result will be economic Armageddon.