In case you have avoided lockout negotiation news in the past week, let me provide a quick wrap-up before delving into the most recent developments. I have written on the subject in the past fews days, so here is what you need to know to understand the tenor of the Saturday negotiations:
When representatives for the NBA owners and NBA Players Association recently agreed to resume talks on Saturday, it could hardly be considered a bad thing. Well, apparently a small faction of NBA players (and almost certainly their agents) disagree. Reports have surfaced from the New York Times' Howard Beck and Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski that approximately 50 players participated in two calls with anti-trust lawyers to explore the possibility of decertifying the Players' Union and suing the NBA under anti-trust law.
The threat of anti-trust litigation will almost certainly affect the quality of the negotiations between representatives for the NBA owners and NBA Players Association, because it signals a lack of good faith in the collective bargaining process by at least some of the union membership. Ultimately, the hope is that this is nothing more than a ploy to create leverage at the negotiating table, because true decerficiation would likely mean the season will be cancelled. David Stern has referred to decertification and anti-trust litigation as a "nuclear option," because it would lead to prolonged litigation of individual player suits challenging potential anti-trust violations like the NBA draft and restricted free agency, which are currently protected from legal scrutiny under labor laws and collective bargaining negotiation doctrines.
Okay, now on to the recent developments:
Lawyers for the NBA and for the NBPA met in U.S. District Court in New York to discuss the league's lawsuit challenging the legality of the lockout in the event of decertification before the Honorable Judge Paul Gardephe on Wednesday. In case you have forgotten the importance of that filing or the legal strategy behind it, I will remind you that the league made a preemptive strike to gain an advantageous legal forum and attempt to cut off the decertification threat at the knees for bargaining purposes [for an in-depth review of what it means, check out the very first Brew Hoop podcast]. The imagery put forth by legal representation for each side during Wednesday's pretrial hearing says it all (courtesy of Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe, via twitter):
ZachLowe_SI Zach LoweLeague attorney, on union's alleged willingness to decertify: "It's like a taking a loaded gun and putting it on the table."
ZachLowe_SI Zach LoweJudge's response: "It's not clear if there are any bullets in it," meaning unclear if union actually would decertify.
"They came in here with a prearranged plan to try to strong arm the players," he said. "They knew today they were sticking to 50, essentially 50.2. They were going to make almost no movement on the system, and then they were going to say, ‘My way, or the 47 percent highway."'
He added there was no reason to talk again before Wednesday if the owners stick to their current position. [emphasis added]