No, not that word. Or that one. Nope, keep trying. 'Decertification'. While currently in 2011 David Stern was too sick to fight through a 'strenuous' third consecutive day of mediation, the NBAPA in '98 was becoming desperate. Interesting to see so many players, including several Magic men, ignore such a crucial union meeting in favor of an exhibition league in Houston. It certainly isn't a world tour. Interesting to see how close the union was to breaking apart back in 1995. David Stern clearly had some very powerful and leveraged words on the situation.
The NBA players will consider union decertification - their last real bargaining chip - to try to land a more advantageous working agreement with the owners.
Union decertification - which could open the league to a variety of antitrust violations and essentially cancel this season - is expected to be the major topic during two days of union meetings in Las Vegas.
An agents advisory board today will meet with Billy Hunter, union executive director. Hunter will address the union membership Thursday, and more than 100 NBA players are expected to attend.
Meanwhile, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw of the Orlando Magic are expected to bypass the union meeting. The trio will join nearly 60 players in Houston for what is evolving into an organized pickup basketball league.
``I had intended on going to Las Vegas,'' Anderson said Tuesday as he was heading to Orlando International Airport. ``But after talking to a couple of guys in Houston, I decided to fly down there and play in this league that the players have sort of put together.''
What this will mean for the players union meeting is unclear. However, Anderson noted that several marquee players, including Mitch Richmond, David Robinson and Tim Hardaway are expected to participate in the Houston games, which are held twice a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Magic player representative Danny Schayes said he had heard of the league but still expected a good turnout at Thursday's meeting in Las Vegas.
``I would expect about half the union to show up, which is about 200 players,'' Schayes said. ``I couldn't imagine us having less than 100.''
The union was dealt a serious blow Monday when arbitrator John Feerick ruled that 226 players with guaranteed contracts do not have to be paid during a lockout.
``An NBA contract is not worth a Russian ruble at this point, and it never will be again,'' said Don Cronson, agent for several NBA players, most notably Charlotte Hornets forward Anthony Mason. ``I think the union now will decertify.''
By decertifying the union, the players would abandon their collective bargaining rights and gain the freedom to cut their own deals without the constraints (notably the salary cap) of an agreement. Essentially, every player automatically would become a free agent.
The players likely would seek a court injunction to end the lockout and start the season, while the owners likely would appeal to the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to stop it.
``The whole thing could take months,'' agent Herb Rudoy said.
Although Hunter tried to downplay the threat of decertification in the wake of Monday's ruling, he admitted the topic would be paramount. The union voted against decertification - 63 percent to 37 percent - in 1995 during the last labor impasse.
It was pushed the last time by David Falk, who represents both Michael Jordan and union President Patrick Ewing and is the league's most powerful agent.
``We made these comments long ago, but unfair labor practice charges, arbitration, decertifications, antitrust lawsuits just don't get it done,'' NBA Commissioner David Stern said.
``All they do is cost the players more money, owners more money and the fans the game. If the record to date doesn't demonstrate that the way to get out of this is to negotiate, then I don't know what else to say.''
Stern and the owners hate the idea of a possible union decertification because it would open a variety of issues in court. The salary cap, the college draft and all the rules under which the league operates would be open to antitrust appeals.
The NFL players chose to decertify after their strike failed in 1987. Their court fight with NFL owners lasted five years.
The players might decide that just the threat of decertification will help them in negotiations with the owners.
The two sides have no meetings scheduled, but they could meet as early as this weekend, depending upon what the players decide.
``Obviously, it [decertification) is very frightening to them [the owners),'' agent Marc Fleisher said.