He felt Stern had too many owners pushing for substantial changes and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter had too many player agents pushing to keep the old system close to intact.
“When you understand all the key participants are on both sides and the political pressures that Stern and Hunter have to live with, then you look at the broken business model. It’s just very predictable that this is not going to get done this year,” Roberts said.
The lawsuit filed in California alleges that NBA officials informed Hunter in June 2007 — two years after the sides had negotiated its last collective bargaining agreement — that it intended to “substantially reduce” the players’ share of basketball-related income and impose more restrictive salary-cap limits. It also claims Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver told Hunter that if the players were unwilling to accept the terms, the league was “prepared to lock out the players for two years to get everything” the owners sought and that “the deal would only get worse after the lockout.”
Several agents had pushed for the union to decertify for months, but Hunter elected to file a disclaimer of interest on Monday, which meant the dissolution of the union, thus allowing the legal process to move quicker. Hunter claimed he was forced to move in that direction after Stern said negotiations on the last proposal, which included a 50-50 split of revenues and restrictions on high-spending teams, were over.
“So Stern made it quite easy for the players at this point,” Zimbalist said, adding that NBA players perhaps have a stronger argument than NFL players, who decertified shortly after being locked out and before the collective bargaining negotiations had fully developed. “Am I optimistic on behalf of the players that they can actually take this to court and win it and get triple damages? No, I’m not.”
Hunter and union President Derek Fisher can no longer negotiate on behalf of the players, but the lawyers for both sides could come together and hold discussions and possibly reach an antitrust settlement.
“It’s anybody’s guess, of course,” Zimbalist said. “But my own hunch, if I have to make one prediction: I think they’ll be playing sometime in late January. They are going to go through some huffing and puffing and some grandstanding because one side flexed its muscles and the other side can’t cower. They can’t back off. They are going to both flex muscles for a bit and then I think we’ll get back to bargaining and the owners will make an offer that’s a little bit more generous than the one the players rejected.”