NBA Lockout Update: Disgruntled NBA Players Discuss Decertification, Mess Everything Up

Yesterday was supposed to be a good day for the NBA lockout because the owners and players had agreed to meet again on Saturday.  Instead, it turned into one of its worst, thanks to the actions of a number of frustrated players who are beginning to show some desperation.  According to multiple reports (Adrian Wojnarowski, Howard Beck), a group of 50 players, led by Paul Pierce, have participated in conference calls with anti-trust lawyers to discuss the possibility of decertification without the knowledge of Billy Hunter or Derek Fisher.

Via Wojnarowski's report.

The players, frustrated with the deal union officials have been negotiating, held a call on Tuesday to discuss the state of labor talks with the NBA, and explored their options on Thursday with the antitrust attorney, sources said.

Said one player on the calls: "If nothing else, this takes us off our heels."

The players are already upset that the union has conceded this much and want to explore a leverage strategy in case the union concedes any more.  If decertification happens, it'll probably lead to the cancellation of the entire season because it'll all be tied up in court.

Ugh.

Right off the jump, let's note the caveat that just because the players met to discuss decertification doesn't mean they will automatically decertify.  They could very easily just have wanted more information on its ramifications.  But if they're serious about this, it's a really, really bad play.

A few reasons why:

  • Decertification as a leverage ploy takes a long time to plan out to do it right.  As Tom Ziller writes, you need to have the right resources on your side.  The players don't right now.  The right time to do this was with everyone on board, and it was in July.
  • Decertification basically becomes toothless when you aren't aligned as a union.  You think Hunter and Fisher want to go along with this when they've been cut out of the process?  No chance.  Without Fisher and Hunter, the threat becomes far less severe.  Instead of a whole union, the owners only have to deal with a handful of players.
  • Decertification as a leverage tactic won't work as well in the NBA as in the NFL.  In the NFL, the threat of losing games was serious.  In the NBA?  Even if you don't believe the owners are losing money, the financial pain of losing a handful of games early in the season isn't nearly as large as losing a week of the NFL.  Many owners are in this for the long haul, so this won't scare them.
  • Finally, did decertification really work all that well in the NFL anyway, or was it the threat of a lost season of the most successful professional sport in this country that caused everyone to get back to the negotiation table.

At the end of the day, this measure is way too desperate to work, and it illustrates the difficult job Hunter and Fisher have to keep everyone aligned.  It's much easier to unite 30 owners with the threat of six-figure fines than 420-plus players with none of that.

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