David Stern fired back for the first time at agents pushing NBA players toward decertification, saying it was a bargaining ploy and if executed likely would kill the season.
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The NBA commissioner also warned decertification legally may void all player contracts, adding agents would get "burned."
The NBA regular season — already postponed by six weeks — hangs in the balance with a Dec. 15 tip-off or bust.
Union officials, the NBPA executive board and 30 player representatives will meet Monday at 9:00am in Manhattan with a chance to save a 72-game season by accepting what they contend is a highly unfavorable, revised 50-50 proposal.
The players are more likely to reject the proposal and tell Stern to take his Dec. 15 opening night and shove it. A lengthy decertification process then would begin, leaving the season in the hands of the courts.
The one wild card that could come out of Monday’s meeting is the union putting it to vote with the rank-and-file (all 440 players) on Tuesday, and then anything is possible.
"[Decertification] is actually calculated to, one, [serve] as a tactic to improve their bargaining position and, two, making it even more likely that there won’t be a season," Stern said Friday. "If the union is not in existence, then neither are $4 billion worth of guaranteed contracts that are entered into under condition that there’s a union. So if the agents insist on playing with fire, my guess is that they would get themselves burned."
Stern said he did not think the players will opt to throw it all away.
"I refuse to contemplate the loss of a season," he said. "It’s going to be too painful for the players and the owners alike. But we’ll still be here, we’ll pick up the pieces and do the best we can under the circumstances. That’s not an eventuality that I anticipate or look forward to. It’s all in the hands of the players."
When asked about using scabs, Stern said, "I don’t want to go there now."