Looks like 30 hours of mediation can worsen things, not improve them. Building off the decertification piece yesterday, we now have two other critical 'D' words. 'D-Day'. The majority of NBA players were either in Las Vegas for the union vote, or in Houston partaking in real basketball activities. I did thoroughly enjoy Larry Guest's paragraph on the situation. I about died of laughter when Billy Hunter used Christianity as an excuse for some players not showing up in Vegas. Magic men Danny Schayes and Penny Hardaway, as we've come to expect at this point, are the main Orlando figures to be questioned.
HOUSTON - It is D-Day for the National Basketball Players Association. Nearly 200 union members are expected to gather in Las Vegas this morning to ponder their fate in the NBA lockout.
D-Day could stand for decertification day. Players have been asked to fill out certificates declaring whether or not they favor disbanding the union as a means to resolve the lockout.
``Believe me, that [decertification] is the absolute last resort,'' San Antonio Spurs point guard Avery Johnson said Wednesday after morning workouts here at the West Side Tennis Center, where a group of NBA players has been participating in a fall recreational league. ``I think the main thing we want to do is to try to come up with a solution so that we can go back to playing basketball.''
Moreover, D-Day stands for decision day. The players already have lost the first two weeks of the regular season and, according to NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, have forfeited nearly $100 million in salaries.
``I'm sure there are going to be a lot of questions, although I don't know how much you can accomplish in one day,'' Orlando Magic point guard Penny Hardaway said. He has been rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee with a physical therapist in Houston and will remain there today.
``Right now, I'd say guys are sort of split on what they want to do,'' Hardaway said. ``As we continue to miss more games, I think you'll see more guys getting impatient and wanting to get a deal done quickly.''
The mission for NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter is to rally his troops and come up with a viable strategy to return the players to the hardwood floors.
One possibility likely to be discussed to get the players back on the court is the players creating their own league. That plan first was discussed at the agents advisory council meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, where more than 20 player agents and 11 NBA players gathered for nearly four hours.
After the meeting, Hunter also announced that the players planned to organize exhibition games until the lockout is settled.
Although many of the 413 union members are expected to skip the Las Vegas meeting, Hunter said that should not be viewed as a splintering of the union.
``We've got some newly converted Christians, and maybe they find it difficult to come to a place like Las Vegas,'' Hunter said. ``Maybe guys won't show up, but we'll continue to communicate with them.''
Hunter insisted that many marquee players will attend. He said he has commitments from Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Alonzo Mourning, among others.
``Their attitude is that we have to show strength,'' Hunter said. ``It's time for the men to step forward and be counted. You don't send boys to do a man's job, and the men are coming to Las Vegas.''
Meanwhile, a celebrity NBA all-star game will be held at the University of Houston on Friday night. Hardaway is expected to join several of the NBA's finest at the game.
``I think it's great that guys have been playing and staying in shape,'' Magic player representative Danny Schayes said. ``This is not something that the union set up, but I heard about the league that they started in Houston. I think that shows their commitment to the game.''
The league owners, citing the need to assure cost certainty, are looking for that same commitment at the negotiating table. They've insisted on some type of hard salary cap.
The players have balked at the idea of a hard cap under any circumstance. As an alternative, they proposed a luxury-tax system on players' salaries of more than $18 million.
The owners, in turn, came up with a counterproposal based on a luxury tax starting on salaries higher than $2.6 million. Commissioner David Stern had hoped to hear a formal response from the players union.
Hunter said it appeared this latest offer was a veiled attempt to break up the union.
Only three formal negotiating sessions have been conducted since the lockout began July 1. After today's meeting, the earliest that Hunter and his executive board members can expect to meet with the owners is Friday.
In an ideal situation, negotiations would carry on throughout the weekend, allowing Stern the opportunity to brief the owners at a scheduled NBA board of governors meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in New York.
If no substantial progress is made by then, Stern will have no choice but to cancel what's left of the November games.
Tony Dutt - one of the council members who also represents Magic first-round pick Keon Clark, a center from Nevada-Las Vegas - said the players must not enter into this idea of decertification lightly.
``We feel, as a whole, that if that's something you throw out there, then you'd better be prepared to do it,'' Dutt said. `` ... I think that's what we want to come out of this [Las Vegas meeting] - some definites on what the next plan is. You can't afford to make the wrong move at this point.''