The anguish was palpable after the latest NBA labor talks broke down after two long days of talks with little to no progress on a new collective bargaining agreement and a threat that training camps will not open on time.
The players' camp seems to be in disarray. There have been reports that some agents, taking the role as puppet-masters, are attempting to pull their players' strings in forcing the NBPA to decertify their union. Bill Duffy, Arn Tellem, Mark Bartlestein, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Fegan are the starting 5 on Team Agent, who also represent roughly one-third of the Union's players. They believe that the owners have most of the leverage and are ready to take it to the hole and blow up the union as a way to regain some of the power in the CBA negotiations, but union head Billy Hunter has rebuffed their proposal. In order for the Union to vote on the decertification issue, all Team Agent would have to do is convince all the players they represent, which totals roughly 30% of the Union members, to sign a petition to bring the issue to a vote.
NBPA President Derek Fisher rebuked Team Agents' request, and even called their motives into question. One only has to go back to the last NBA Lockout where the NBPA Executive Committee was accused of being run by super agent David Falk trying to protect his elite clients, as 10 out of 19 players on the Executive Committee were Falk clients including Union President Patrick Ewing, and fellow superstars Alonzo Mourning, Juwan Howard, and Dikembe Mutombo. This time around around, and probably much to Team Agent's chagrin, the NBPA executive committee is comprised of mostly role players and veterans (aside from star guard Chris Paul), which is evident by the leadership of veteran role player President Derek Fisher. Fisher and Hunter met with a group of about 40 players to discuss the progress or lack of progress in their negotiations with the owners and special guest presenter NFLPA Head DeMaurice Smith spoke about the decertification process as it was used for the NFLPA's specific needs. Many believe that Fisher is not ready to seriously consider decertification at this juncture as he believes that their NLRB complaint could be sufficient to shift the momentum. The Union appeared to leave the meeting an united front.
Subsequently, Fisher than sent an e-mail out to other members of the Union stating that the dysfunction was not among the players, but an internal divide within the Owners circle. After hearing these statements, Commissioner David Stern denied Fisher's allegations saying that the "vast majority" of the owners favor a hard salary cap and that the owner's negotiating committee has the authority to negotiate on all matters.
At their meeting, the owner's ratified a five year deal with NBA referees. The only question is how many games or if there will be a season to officiate at; Union Head Billy Hunter cautioned that the players should be ready to lose at least half a season at this time. Whether that is a threat or happens will be decided in the upcoming days. Derek Fisher has proven that he not only can lead teams to championship but can also unite all the NBA player's diverse interests. However, Billy Hunter needs to share some of the burden or it may not be too long that he ends up much like Hunter, Jan Levinson-Gould's assistant from NBC's "The Office," and let go to focus on his coffeehouse music tour.