An ESPN report early Wednesday morning indicates that some of the NBA's most powerful agents are aggressively pushing their clients toward the nuclear option of decertification in the face of a lack of progress in the CBA talks.
Arn Tellem, Bill Duffy, Mark Bartelstein, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Fegan -- who collectively represent nearly one-third of the league's players -- spoke Monday about the process of decertifying the union, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.via Sources: NBA player agents angling to get players union to decertify - ESPN.
The agents' view is that the owners currently have most, if not all, of the leverage in these talks and that something needs to be done to turn the tide. They believe decertification will do the trick, creating uncertainty and wresting control away from the owners.
The union has been negotiating with the league for a year and a half and the owners haven't changed their stance, so the conversation the agents had was about how to work with the union to enhance its strategy," a person close to the situation said on condition of anonymity. "The feeling is that decertification is the weapon that has to be pulled out of the arsenal, that it's the most effective way to change the dynamics of the negotiations."The agents have spoken with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, about the need for decertification, but he has thus far resisted their plan. He said Tuesday that the players are not yet considering decertifying.
The more interesting element regarding those specific agents is their representation makes up the exact percentage necessary to force what's called an involuntary decertification, in which 30 percent of the union signs a petition saying it supports decertification. If that's the path they take, it's a contentious power move that could have serious implications for the union and the talks.
Union head Billy Hunter has been adamant about avoiding decertification. There are conflicting theories as to the reason why Hunter hasn't pursued the aggressive legal action. Hunter claims that the objective is to avoid a prolonged legal battle which will do nothing but embitter both sides to the cause. The longer a lockout is extended, it's believed the union loses more leverage. The alternative theory is that Hunter is concerned about the possible impact on his standing with the players, and the chance that when the decertification ends and the union reforms, Hunter would not be placed back at executive director.
Multiple reports have placed players' representatives as frustrated with Hunter's approach, believing there isn't a cohesive strategy to "bust" the union. The ESPN report also states that a signficant number of agents are against decertification, including Happy Walters and Rob Pelinka (who represents Kobe Bryant). The result could be an internal fracture within the players' union over whether to dissolve the union. This on the heels of a five-hour negotiation Tuesday in which the owners huddled amongst themselves for three hours, in what was believed to be a sign of internal strife in the owners contingent fully forms this as a four-sided issue. Players who want decertification (or at least players whose agents want to decertify) versus those who stand with Hunter versus owners who want a resolution to the lockout versus those who want to lose the season to get every single thing they want.
David Stern said yesterday after the talks that the internal ownership conversation centered around revenue sharing.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that yesterday's talks actually represent a move towards ending the lockout with the players agreeing to a lowered BRI split to 54.3 percent. So now the question becomes whether the "dove" owners will be able to wrestle control from the "hawk" owners to broker a deal before the agent insurgency in the union moves towards involuntary decertification, or Hunter is forced to move there himself to consolidate his power.
The lockout is complicated enough, with the issues and conflicting facts. And every day it becomes even more so as both sides divide amongst themselves.