The nuclear option is on the table again for NBA players in this lockout. Now we'll see if the season is about to be blown to smithereens.
Two league sources confirmed a Yahoo! Sports report that approximately 50 players took part in a conference call with an antitrust attorney on Thursday to discuss the possibility of decertifying their union. A smaller conference call with players and the attorney took place on Tuesday as well, and it is believed that both were conducted outside the scope of the National Basketball Players' Association.
The involuntary option -- which would result in antitrust lawsuits from the players asserting that the lockout is illegal and seeking damages up to three times their salaries owed -- has long been deemed "nuclear" because of the protracted legal battle it could cause. In order to involuntary decertify the union, 30 percent of the league's 400-plus players would have to sign a petition supporting it in order to move it to a vote. The vote, which could take 45 to 60 days, would need to be a majority in order to pass.
Yet, timing is everything with this threat. Sources say the players are certainly attempting to apply pressure to the situation heading into Saturday's meeting with the owners with the hopes that union leaders Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher don't make any more concessions in negotiations. Specifically, there is a hope that the split of basketball-related income does not fall below 52 percent for the players after they offered to take 52.5 percent recently, and that no more concessions are made on the system issues. The league has offered a 50-50 split, although commissioner David Stern has indicated his side's proposal could soon worsen because of the losses the league is suffering from missing a month's worth of games.
While a group of seven player agents initially pushed for decertification and have been highly publicized, that group has grown recently primarily because of anger over how league officials continue to bargain. Players have already reduced their share of BRI significantly from the 57 percent in the last collective bargaining agreement and have agreed in principle to a laundry list of system items that would help the owners' cause. They see decertification as the last-gasp attempt to avoid being completely overrun in this process.
While the number of players involved hardly indicates a likelihood that decertification should be seen as realistic just yet, it certainly could set the tone for Saturday's meeting. If the union leaders ignore this movement and look to strike a deal, the lockout could be over soon. Otherwise, the decertification damage might ensue.