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Union mulls decertification as contentious labor talks drag on

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There continues to be "little or no progress" in the negotiations between the NBA and the players' association, according to union director Billy Hunter, who was in New York on Tuesday to update Knicks players on the status of the labor talks.

The width of the gulf between the two sides was brought into perspective earlier this month, when the union distributed a podcast to players detailing the proposal it submitted to the league in July.

While the league's proposal -- which was sent to the union last January -- sought drastic changes to the current system, including a 38 percent reduction in player salaries, the union's counterproposal suggested more modest adjustments. While it has expressed a willingness to reduce the players' guarantee of 57 percent of the revenue, the union has also asked for enhanced sign-and-trade flexibility, the return of the NBA age limit to 18 and the creation of another mid-level exception ($5.8 million this season) to replace the bi-annual exception ($2 million).

With both sides balking, the union has explored the possibility of decertification to fight a lockout. By decertifying, the union could sue the league under U.S. antitrust laws by contending the NBA was conducting a group boycott. The NFLPA is the only union to decertify, in 1989.

Hunter said the players' union had discussed decertification but that it was "pretty far off."

"Decertification is just one of the options that the union would have in the event of a protracted lockout, that's all," he said. "When you look at what your options are, you've got to look at everything and so it's just one of the things we may have to contemplate. But it's pretty far off. It's nothing immediate. If you anticipate that there is going to be a lockout, then it's appropriate as far as timing to discuss it now so that the players understand it [and] they begin to incorporate that with their thinking as well as everything else."

Hunter said he expects to meet with representatives from the league early next month and indicated that he should have a better idea as to the feasibility of a new deal over All-Star weekend in Los Angeles in February, when the two sides are expected to have extensive discussions. However, he added that with so many players and owners present during the All-Star festivities, it makes things "pretty difficult to negotiate."

"That's why I'm saying it may not be a realistic marker in whether we can or cannot," Hunter said. "What I'm saying is, in my discussions with commissioner [David] Stern and others, we'll be able to make a determination whether they're serious or not about making a deal or whether they're going to stand pat. And if they stand pat, it's just a slow march to a lockout."