NBA Players Association United by Hunter, Smith and Fisher

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Thursday, September 15, 2011 with No comments
NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter
    Take a second and ponder a question if you will....what do you fear the most?  Just for a moment, focus on how it would feel to be an owner of a professional basketball team in the NBA during a self imposed lockout; now ask yourself this question....what would I fear the most?  On this day, the owners of the NBA faced what they fear the most, a unified players union!  Two days had passed since stories surfaced detailing a somber tone coming from the results of a meeting this past Tuesday between the owners and the Players Association in which a deal wasn't struck and future meetings were not planned.  The rhetoric coming out of Tuesday's meeting featured the  owners making Billy Hunter wait 3 hours before declining to agree to the deal and also the first indications of the players faith in Billy Hunter waning.

Since 1996 Billy Hunter has guided the players association and looked out for their best interest, that was his singular goal year in and year out, battling Commissioner Stern and his owners at every opportunity he
could.  This was not his first rodeo as he also battled Stern in the lockout of 98/99 that caused the NBA implement a 50 game season due to 32 games being lost.  Again he'd seen it all but as the news continued to circulate out after Tuesday's meeting, the most startling revelation of all began to rear its ugly head.  Five super agents in the NBA, Arn Tellem, Bill Duffy, Mark Bartelstein, Jeff Schwartz, and Dan Fegan spoke about the possibility of de-certifying the Players Association which would in turn remove Hunter from his position.

By law, labor unions cannot file antitrust lawsuits.  In the event of de-certification, the antitrust rules would change allowing the players to file antitrust motions against the owners and request injunctions that would force the owners to allow the players to work thus ending the owner imposed lockout.  This tactic would replace Hunter with an antitrust lawyer who would present the case to federal judges and at that point both players and owners are at risk for more loses than they are currently presented with.  Of course this is the path that Hunter has wanted to avoid but take this into consideration.  Thirty percent of the players would have to vote for de-certifying the union and the five super agents mentioned above represents that amount of players in the NBA.

Today was the day that it was speculated that the agents mentioned above would begin their cue because keep this in mind, if the players aren't getting paid come November, the agents wouldn't be getting paid as well and it was that selfishness that Hunter was trying to avoid at all costs.  It seemed as if a rift was beginning to form in the ranks of the players union and that was music to the ears of the owners who wanted to hold out until at least November when checks would be missed to watch the union crumble but it was being speculated that the fraction, the rift had already begun.  Coincident or not, Hunter's grasp on the players and his job was at risk as he prepared to face the players today in Las Vegas.

NBPA President Derek Fisher
Sensing possible dissension in the ranks, Derek Fisher, the Players President of the Union, sent out an email explaining in detail that the most recent hold up at the meeting wasn't caused by the owners simply rejecting the players proposal but due to the fact that the owners had begun fighting among themselves.  It was reported by ESPN that Dan Gilbert and Robert Sarver, who own the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns respectively were opposed to the most recent players proposal while the owners of the Knicks and Lakers, James Dolan and Dr. Jerry Buss were visibly annoyed by the demands of Gilbert and Sarver.  That fact all but verified that there's a rift between the philosophies of the owners of the NBA, a rift caused by the difference between large markets and small market teams, a rift that may not be repaired due to the fact that the haves won't allow their successful structure to be deconstructed due to the have nots having the incapability to understand that there's no current business model in the world where everyone business is successful.  Every business can't succeed but every business will incur loses.  Fisher's email also addressed those players who's agents were in their ear, trying to dictate the fate of the players from behind the shadows.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith
While the owners were in Dallas today battling among themselves, Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and about 70 NBA players were in Las Vegas participating in the Las Vegas Impact League, a league built upon the notion of having the players prepared for training camp whenever it starts.  Today was the day that the agents and the owners were waiting for the fraction, rift, and dissension among the players to become public, today was supposed to be the day that the shit hit the fan and the Players Union would crumble, it was to be the day that Billy Hunter's 15 years of service would have ended.  As demonstrated earlier by the email that was sent, Derek Fisher was again a step ahead of the agents and the owners.  Fisher invited the NFL's Players Union executive director DeMaurice Smith to speak to the near 70 players who were attending the Impact League.  Having just endured a 4.5 month lockout himself with the NFL, Smith's goal was to instill faith back into the players of the NBA and also to remind them to remain unified in this harsh time of uncertainty.

Not one but two union heads delivering the same message...unity amongst themselves, amongst the players as the owners and the agents were moving in for the kill.  The owners faced their worst nightmare today, a unified union, a strong union who will not lay down or be strong armed.  The agents faced their fears as de-certification was taken off the table completely as an option and at the end there was Billy Hunter, standing as tall as ever having won another battle in the war of the NBA, the war of reality vs perception.  The first shot has been fired by the players after the mess that was Tuesday and only just now did the owners fire back by stating that the owners are still united, bonded by the idea of having a hard salary cap.  Let it be known that on this day, Thursday, September 15th, 2011 the players won a small battle, their unified front could be a giant step in the right direction of creating a resolution with the owners.  After today's meeting, Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies sent out a tweet that spoke volumes, I just hope that the owners were able to hear it and/or paid attention to it.

"We believe in Billy Hunter!!!  Great Meeting!!!