By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
LAS VEGAS Even before the NBA lockout kicked in on July 1, the 'D' word - decertification - was being floated about.
With little progress having been made since, there's a small but very powerful group of NBA movers and shakers - agents - who are reportedly looking to push their clients towards decertifying the union.
The thinking behind decertifying is that it will cause just enough chaos, uncertainty and the potential threat of lawsuits, to make owners more inclined to modify their stance on issues such as the salary cap (they want a hard one, the players want to keep the current soft cap and the exceptions that come with it, in place).
"I don't necessarily think that's the way," said Roger Mason, vice president of the NBA players union. "We're trying to negotiate with the NBA. We're having dialogue, we're talking. We know their position. They know ours. We're at the table. We just need to get something done."
In addition to the salary cap, both sides seem to be at odds over how to address guaranteed contracts as well as divide the league's Basketball-Related Income. Under the recently expired Collective Bargaining Agreement, players received 57 percent of the BRI.
"If the number is 65 percent of BRI (in the next CBA), we have no issues," Mason said. "The problem is ... and you hear a lot of the guys today talk to me about a hard cap, we'll be fighting against our own teammates. If a guy gets hurt, there's a likelihood that he could be cut. It's a dynamic that you just don't want to see with teammates. I don't think it's good for basketball, to have players going against each other like that. It makes for a lot of selfish basketball."
The idea of decertification has been floated about a number of times under the regime of the union's executive director Billy Hunter.
But it seems to be picking up more steam with the current impasse between the union and the owners.
Mason said the union has not brought the prospect of decertification into conversations with the owners.
When asked about it as a topic among players, he said, "among ourselves, agents are calling for it. We're not blind to that. We just need to be on the same page. We don't need a contingent of agents pushing for one thing, and the union pushing for another. We have to be on the same page."
That's why it's unlikely that the union will address the prospect of decertification until after a ruling on their lawsuit against the NBA.
The lawsuit, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, claims that the NBA and its owners are not negotiating in good faith. A ruling in favor of the union could potentially bring about an end to the lockout.
While there's no definitive timetable for when the NLRB will render a verdict, Hunter is optimistic that a ruling will be made soon.
From Mason's perspective, all the talk about potentially decertifying the union can do nothing but make negotiations with the NBA even more daunting than they have been thus far.
"Anytime there's turmoil on one set of the negotiations, it hurts you," Mason said. "I'm sure they would love if we had dissension among us, today and tomorrow, it's our job to let the players know what's going on."
Mason along with other members of the union's executive board will speak with fellow players in Las Vegas on Thursday morning. At least 75 players are expected to be there, including Celtics forward Paul Pierce.
"A lot of it (Thursday's meeting) will be giving them the right information," Mason said. "Sometimes agents give them wrong information, and they're not knowing what's going on. So the big thing is exactly what's going on, what went on Tuesday and what went on with Derek (Fisher) and Billy (Hunter) in the small group meetings."
That agenda isn't nearly as upbeat as what Mason and the union leadership were hoping for.
"We were hoping to be coming to Vegas with some type of news, some type of offer from the NBA," Mason said. "They had no such offer for us. We gotta be honest with the players and let them know how far apart we are. I don't want anybody making decisions or going to Europe or other situations and not really knowing what's really going on."