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Sunday, November 6, 2011
Union: Players won't see this offer

By Henry Abbott

The NBA's ultimatum to players came with a late Wednesday deadline. Why so long? Why not force players to respond today, or tomorrow?

Presumably because the league calculates it's in their best interests for players to think long and hard about missed seasons, lost salary and returning to a league with CBA terms dreamed up by hard-line owners.

The idea is that over the next few days, players will insist their leaders take the deal.

But the union says they won't even present the league's offer to its players for a vote.

Why not?

Because the two sides are not as close as they seem, for starters.

"Any illusion we're close," says union attorney Jeffrey Kessler, "is wrong."

That the players and league both seem to be offering something around 50 percent is not so, as the players' willingness to make an offer so low hinges on big concessions on issues like luxury tax and the mid-level exception. For the players to accept the system the NBA is proposing, the players would want, in Kessler's view, "at least" 52.5 percent of basketball-related income.

The other reason the players won't present the NBA's latest offer to their players is, Kessler says, "because that's now how any union in America works, that I'm aware of."

"As the president and for our executive committee," explains NBPA president Derek Fisher, "we have a responsibility to be gatekeepers and be leaders. Our job is to take a deal to our players that we're comfortable presenting and that we feel will get passed, and will receive the votes to get basketball back up and running. And at this point, we don't have a deal to propose."

Kessler explains the reasoning for the mechanism is because no union wants to let employers address workers directly. You don't want your opponents to have direct access to your constituents. The fully informed committee has an obligation to keep bad deals from the rank and file, who have entrusted the process to them. This protects players from accepting an offer that might sound good to them, but would, in the judgment of those who have analyzed it most thoroughly, actually be bad news.

So if the players are to accept the NBA's offer, they will do so over the objection of their representatives.

At the very least, Fisher allows the union will be attentive to players.

"Between now and Wednesday," he says, "we'll be in constant and consistent communication."

But that communication will not include any kind of presentation of the league's offer. "There is not a deal we can present," he says, and "that's a call we've been elected to make."

So how will all this turn out?

Who knows?

"No one has a crystal ball," were Kessler's last words before heading for the door.