After receiving a take it or leave it final offer from David Stern and the owners, the NBA Players Association must decide whether to take an unacceptable deal or try to generate some last minute leverage by decertifying the union.
Stern told the NBAPA that it has until Wednesday to accept the offer that would give the players as much as 51 percent of the revenue. If the players reject the deal, Stern indicated that deal would be off the table forever and any future offers would be worse.
The players union has said it is willing to go as far down as a 52-48 revenue split from its current 57-43 split, but union attorney Jeffrey Kessler says the union's executive committee will not even present the NBA's current offer to the rest of the players because it is so far off from what the players want.
As the president and for our executive committee, NBPA president Derek Fisher told reporters, we have a responsibility to be gatekeepers and be leaders. Our job is to take a deal to our players that we're comfortable presenting and that we feel will get passed, and will receive the votes to get basketball back up and running. And at this point, we don't have a deal to propose.
The next course of action for the players could be decertifying the union in hopes to get leverage over the owners, but there is no guarantee that it would work. If the players decertify the union, they could bring forth an anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA in court and hope to achieve a solution through litigation.
Players have held two conference calls with at least 50 players listening in, according to reports, to discuss the process of decertifying the union. The union would need about 120 players, or 30 percent of the league, to sign a petition to start the decertifying process.
Officially decertifying the union would take up to 45 days, but the mere threat of decertifying could bring the two sides closer together, according to one sports law expert.
The immediate ramification may be to provide the players with some leverage in the next talk with the owners, Gabe Feldman, a law professor and sports law expert at Tulane University, told IBTimes. The notion is the mere threat to bring an anti-trust lawsuit would provide some extra leverage for the players.
Feldman calls decertifying the nuclear option and that it makes it tough to put together the union once they dissolve their leadership. The NFL successfully decertified its union and ended up reaching a deal, but the law professor notes there are a lot of differences between the two unions.
The NBA players union decertifying could show a divide within the ranks, especially with executive Billy Hunter not publicly backing the idea, while the NFLPA was fully behind decertifying as a strategic move.
The decertification process was so well-organized, that NFL owners argued that it was essentially a sham. No one could argue that the NBA's decertification is a sham - not with players publicly splintering over what the union should do.
It's because of the lack of unity and reports of behind-the-scenes arguing that could cause the decertification push to ultimately blow up in the players' faces, according to Feldman.
It could blow up, it could force the owners to call the players' bluff, he said. The worst case scenario is that it destroys the collective bargaining process.
If there are owners that are willing to miss significant games to change the financial structure of the league, then the owners might say 'We will call your bluff and when the union goes away, then the season goes away.'
If the union does decide to begin the decertifying process -- with November's slate of games already canceled -- it'd be placing all of its hopes for salvaging the remainder of the season in one basket. It would mean passing on the NBA's last offer and beginning a process sure to infuriate the league's owners.
It could allow for the owners to press even more for the players to accept a less than stellar offer or deal with the ramifications of a lost season.
Decertification might end up emboldening the owners that if they hang on a little longer then the players might truly cave, Feldman said. If there are 50 or so players considering decertifying, there might be enough players that want to get a deal done now.