Brian Cardinal: Owners going for jugular

Brian Cardinal, an alternate player representative with the Dallas Mavericks last season, said he hopes a labor deal can still be reached but acknowledged that losing the entire season is a real possibility.

“As a players union, we’ve tried to give money back and change some of the structure and other things and work on the things that they want us to work on to make it all work,” Cardinal, previously a player rep with Detroit, Memphis and Minnesota, said several days before this latest round of marathon negotiations fell apart Thursday night.

“But for whatever reason, they’re going for the jugular. It’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate for us as players, but more than just us it’s unfortunate for the fans, unfortunate for the people that work at the arenas.”

Cardinal has spent the offseason with his wife and three young children at their home in a small lake town in the northeast corner of Indiana. He has not been present at any of the labor negotiations but said he has been paying close attention to the proceedings.

“It’s possible, anything is possible,” Cardinal said of losing the entire 82-game season. “I never would have thought that; I was hopeful we wouldn’t be where we’re at now. I would have thought that everybody would have been chatting and figuring it out during the summer and not waiting until the last minute.”

The 6-foot-8 power forward was out of a job a year ago before the Mavericks brought him to training camp on a make-good contract. He emerged as a valuable situational player throughout the season and the 11-year, blue-collar veteran became a fan favorite, especially so during the NBA Finals when he played a key role in short stints off the bench due to an injury to backup center Brendan Haywood.

Once again, Cardinal’s future is up in the air. He will become a free agent whenever the lockout is lifted and he wants to remain with the Mavs. Dallas will have six free agents to deal with under a new salary cap structure, including Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea.

“We spoke right after the championship and before the lockout,” Cardinal said. “Obviously, I’m hopeful to be back in Dallas. We’ve got a great team and I think we just all got along great. The camaraderie was off the charts. The guys are great so I’m hopeful to be back, but you never know. It would definitely be my first option.”

Cardinal, 34, said he hopes to play several more seasons even if the 2011-12 season is lost. He said he is working out daily at a local college and is eager for the sides to reach a settlement and open training camp.

For some of the league’s older players, a lost season could spell the end to some spectacular careers. Last season, Mavs point guard Jason Kidd, 38, said he would have to seriously consider retirement if the season was wiped out, saying it would be too difficult to take a year off and then get his body back in shape for a 2012-13 season.

“I definitely want to play whether that happens this year or not,” Cardinal said. “I don’t want to ride off into the sunset yet. None of us do.”