With the NBA lockout once again on the brink of its darkest and most damaging stretch, players have three days to decide whether to take the owners' latest lockout proposal or see it get markedly worse.
According to sources, they will spend two of those days discussing their two unappealing options: caving or chaos.
The National Basketball Players' Association's executive committee will take part in a conference call on Monday, and player representatives from all 30 teams have been summoned to New York for more deliberations on Tuesday. NBA commissioner David Stern told union officials during Saturday's negotiating session that the latest proposal -- which included, in essence, a 50-50 split on basketball-related income and a system that players still deemed unsatisfactory -- would be off the table by Wednesday and replaced with a proposal that moves the players' portion of BRI to 47 percent and a more prohibitive cap system than the one that has informally been agreed upon.
Yet, with union officials on Saturday deeming the deal so bad they wouldn't take it to their constituents for a vote, and with no sign of players who might accept the deal pushing to be heard, an attempt to decertify the union has never seemed more likely. According to a source involved in the push for decertification, the numbers needed to move it to a vote (30 percent of the league's players must sign a petition, or approximately 120 players) is expected to be in place before Wednesday. And if Stern follows through on his threat and drops the BRI to 47 percent, the source said the commissioner will have made the process of garnering support all that much easier.
"You're going to have 150 players ready to jump on [decertification] immediately," one involved source said.
If approved, decertification -- long deemed the "nuclear" option -- would likely result in the loss of the season as the two sides battled in court. But while a majority vote is needed, the players in favor of this incredibly risky plan would hope to spark a resolution during the 45 to 60 days in which it would take to get to a vote. The owners and players would continue to negotiate in the dramatically changed climate, with owners facing the looming threat of antitrust lawsuits and damages possibly in the billions.
However, if a deal isn't done, the season would be spent in the courts and the damage done immense.
"Is it worth it to put all your eggs in decertification, and if the courts rule against you, now you miss the season and really don't have a leg to stand on?" one agent said.
Approximately 50 players took part in a conference call with an antitrust attorney on Thursday to discuss options that included decertification, and a smaller conference call also took place on Tuesday.