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Saturday, November 26, 2011
What's in it for the players

By Henry Abbott

David Stern predicts owners will support this “tentative agreement” and it's not just because his side won almost all the important concessions.

It's also because he has done his homework, including years of gathering their opinions and, for good measure, two conference calls with the league's labor committee during Black Friday’s marathon bargaining session. Having talked to those 11, Stern is confident this tentative agreement will be recommended by the committee, approved by the board of governors and ultimately ratified by enough of the league’s owners to become official as the league’s next CBA.

Billy Hunter, on the other hand, was a tad vague about how players will react. The details of the deal remain unconfirmed precisely because Hunter wants to tell them to players before the public.

Common sense suggests players -- many of whom have not followed all that closely, and almost all of whom love playing NBA basketball -- will approve the deal.

But Hunter’s caution is not without reason. Compared to Stern, Hunter has a bigger, less predictable group that has surprised him more than once in this process with stridence.

There are more than 400 players, for one thing. For another, many of them are incredibly competitive and are sensitive to the idea Stern and the owners have walked on them.

And the players not only have real power -- some of them are plaintiffs in a case that must be dropped for the NBA to operate -- but they also have some bitter pills to swallow, including spending cuts that will affect several free agents in the years to come, a smaller mid-level exception, and less job security for many rank-and-file players.

There may be some salesmanship in how Hunter, Derek Fisher and the Players Association handle the next few days.

If I were doing the selling, these are some of the points I’d make: