Pierce at head of decertification charge

Pierce at head of decertification charge
November 4, 2011, 6:46 pm
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It's not unusual for Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce to step up in big moments.

But for all the buzzer-beaters he has taken, for all the euphoric moments he has delivered for Celtics Nation, the role he finds himself in now is bigger than any other.

With the NBA owners and players union still unable to work out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there's a growing number of players giving serious thought to de-certifying the NBA Players Association - with Pierce leading the way.

CSNNE.com has confirmed a Yahoo Sports! report that about 50 NBA players recently had conversations about decertification of the NBAPA, with Pierce being one the most vocal supporters of such a move.

"I give Paul props," said one player who was in on one of the two conference calls. "He spoke to the frustration that a lot of us are feeling right now. We've given the owners just about everything they want, and they still want more. Something's gotta change. Maybe (decertification) is the answer."

While there are many steps that still have to be taken before decertification becomes a viable option, the fact that it's now a topic of discussion among a sizable number of players has the potential to significantly alter negotiations at this stage and moving forward.

Before decertification can begin, a petition to decertify must be signed by at least 30 percent of the union. If the necessary votes are achieved, a vote to decertify will then be conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

However, the union filed a complaint with the NLRB against the NBA. Until that is resolved, it's unlikely the NLRB would allow for the decertification process to occur.

Both sides were in New York this week before a U.S. district court to address a complaint filed by the NBA in August against the NBAPA, a move that was seen by many to protect the NBA against a potential decertification of the union and the anti-trust lawsuits that were sure to follow.

The NBA claims that the union wants to use the threat of decertification as a negotiating tactic. The NBAPA counters that the suit should be tossed out because it's based primarily on speculation.

NBA attorney Jeffery Mishkin compared what the NBAPA is doing to having a loaded gun on the table.

"If they've put the gun on the table, it's not clear there are any bullets in it," said U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe, who is presiding over the case.

Dealing another blow to the NBA's case was Gardephe later adding that the NBA's assertion does have a "fair amount of speculation." The NBA also requested that if the union does dissolve, all existing contracts would become "void and unenforceable."

As you sift through all the legal jargon and he-said, he-said between the two sides, the bottom line in all this is pretty clear.

The NBA owners are getting stronger as this process rolls along, in part because there's a growing number of players unhappy with the job that NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter and NBAPA president Derek Fisher are doing.

The two have been negotiating with the owners for months, and have seemingly compromised on just about every issue discussed. By giving in on a number of system-related issues, the union was hoping the NBA would do the same on dividing up the basketball-related income.

It was wrong.

While it's worth noting that the NBA has increased its offer of the BRI to 50-50 (the players are willing to take 52 percent), that would a major drop-off from the 57 percent the players got in the last CBA.

There's a very good chance that the league's 50-50 offer will be off the table when the two sides meet this weekend.

One, because the additional financial losses incurred by more games being canceled. Also, there's a sense among the owners that the players are becoming more splintered, and thus more vulnerable to caving in and accepting whatever deal they put on the table.

That's where decertification comes into play.

At this point, it is seen by the players as the only move they can make, that can have an immediate impact on the bargaining process that has thus far been heavily in favor of the owners. Some players see decertification as their best course of getting a deal done that they deem to be fair and equitable.

But there's one major caveat.

Decertifying will make it very likely that there will not be an NBA season at all, something one league source said was very much a topic of discussion in both conference calls this week involving players.

"Nobody wants to lose a whole season; nobody," one current NBA player said. "But the way this is playing out, we may not have a choice other than to take a bad deal or decertify the union."

For established players like Pierce, missing an entire season would hurt. But considering the amount of wealth he has accumulated in the NBA, he won't be completely devastated. But for less-established players, a lost year of wages will be much tougher to handle.

When you throw in the domino effect that a lost season will have on the economy in those NBA cities and those nearby, the impact becomes even greater.

And now, with the talk of decertification -- and the lost season that will likely follow it -- you have to wonder if either side realizes the damage they're doing and that it'll take years -- long after Pierce, and Kevin Garnett and other aging superstars are gone -- before the NBA will ever be the same again.

Is it really worth it?