NBA Lockout: Decertification Could Lead To League Voiding All Contracts

No one covers the big picture of the NBA lockout as well as NBA.com's David Aldridge -- isn't that some irony? -- and D.A. has a doozy today, explaining why the players' union has hesitated to follow in the footsteps of the NFL Players Association and decertify as a union, opening the door for anti-trust litigation. Aldridge reports that union officials fear the NBA would respond to decertification by voiding all existing NBA contracts, unilaterally setting rules for next season and daring the players to strike or play under those rules.

Of course, that'd be a double-edged sword for the NBA, one that at least a few owners would likely be opposed to signing on to. From Aldridge:

At any rate, the agents do not believe that the league would actually go ahead and void all of those contracts. Such a move could, at least theoretically, make every player in the league a free agent, able to go wherever they wanted. And owners like, say, Miami's Micky Arison, might have a problem with that.

"Think of the chaos of that," a prominent agent said Sunday afternoon. "All of a sudden Kobe and Chris Paul and Deron Williams are free agents? Some owners would lose their marbles. If your top 20 players in the league could, all of a sudden, do what they wanted?...can you imagine Oklahaoma City? (Kevin) Durant and Westbrook? See ya."

Aldridge also reports that agents could seek to decertify without NBPA head Billy Hunter's consent, by having 30 percent of the league's player base signing a petition to bring the matter to vote, and by earning at least 50 percent of that vote. That'd be a huge blow to Hunter and his player leadership (including president Derek Fisher), and would be seen as a clear division within the union (or ex-union, rather).

But it may never come to that, as Hunter has shown to be sympathetic to the decertification idea for months, even if the NBPA didn't file before the league even instituted a lockout, as NFL players did. The NBPA received permission from players via vote during the regular season, which could allow the union to move quickly should the leadership decide to decertify. Then we'll see whether the NBA is bluffing regarding the voiding of existing player contracts.

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