The last time the NBA went through a work stoppage, it cost the league some 40 percent of the games in the 1998-99 season.

No one wanted a lockout, but there was a silver lining: It provided incredible drama. The season was not a marathon. It was clearly a 50-game sprint.

“You couldn’t have a prolonged losing streak because it wasn’t like you had 82 games,” said Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who guided the Sixers to the playoffs that year with a 28-22 record. “We didn’t have as many practices, either. We had to maximize each opportunity, each practice, each game.”

The players prepared individually in hopes of saving the season. Then on Jan. 6, 1999, after a secret negotiating session which lasted all night, the sides reached an agreement and the schedule was set.

“It was only my third season, but what I realized was how lucky I was to be playing,” said Steve Nash, who was playing for the Mavericks in ’98-99. “The business took care of itself. I remember getting on the court, and we were just so happy to be playing and doing what we love to do.”

No winners, losers yet in labor talks

Until the current NBA labor impasse is settled, it’s impossible to gauge which side might be better off in the long run.

In 1998-99, the players scored a huge victory with the midlevel exception. That resulted in veteran players going from making less than $1 million a season to finalizing contracts for more than $5 million per year.

“For a player who maybe bounced around for eight to 10 years, getting a midlevel type of deal was fabulous,” Suns forward Grant Hill said.

Fitness key in stoppage

If the 2011-12 NBA season is similar to 1998-99, players won’t just have to worry about money.

They’ll need to stay in shape, too.

In ’98-99, teams sometimes played three games in three nights. Back-to-backs are one thing, but three straight?

“I’m almost fanatical about fitness and staying shape, so I was ready,” Suns guard Steve Nash said.

Added Celtics guard Ray Allen: “You have to get ready like it’s any other season. You can’t get lackadaisical in any way. It won’t work. It’s our job to be ready. I remember the third of three games, and that wasn’t easy. We had to be fit.”