DeMaurice Smith to address NBA union

Updated: September 15, 2011, 2:34 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith will speak to the NBA players' union at Thursday's NBA Players Association meeting in Las Vegas, a source told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.

Sports Illustrated first reported that Smith, whose union endured a lengthy lockout, court fight and mediated negotiations with football's owners to reach a season-saving deal, would address the NBA players, who were entering the 77th day of their lockout on Thursday.

Smith will speak to the players about the importance of staying unified, the source said.

In addition, with the league's biggest agents pushing the players to decertify the union, Smith will speak about the detriments of decertification and why it did not work for the NFL.

Smith is speaking at the invitation of union president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers. Smith had informed Fisher that he would be in Vegas to speak to a trade group and Fisher extended an invitation to Smith to speak at Thursday's meeting.

Smith and players' union executive Billy Hunter and Smith have been in constant contact throughout the lockout. Thursday's meeting was expected to start at 1:30 ET with Smith addressing players early in the meeting.

Hunter hoped to deliver good news to the players on Thursday. But no progress was made toward ending the 2½-month lockout during a meeting with owners Tuesday, and Hunter might have to tell players to look elsewhere if they want to be paid to play basketball anytime soon.

"There are a lot of guys, many marquee players now, who have offers to go outside the country. And the question is, what do they do?" Hunter said. "I mean, do they hold off making the decision, or do they wait in hopes that we get a deal in place sometime in the immediate future?"

Hopes of that diminished after Tuesday's meeting between the union's executive committee and the owners' labor relations committee ended with the sides still divided over the salary cap system, despite a hint of economic compromise.

Hunter reiterated Tuesday that players are unified in their refusal to accept the owners' current proposal.

But players might be considering overseas alternatives now more than ever.

"As time passes, guys are going to definitely defect, and you won't be able to find the same combination of skill and talent and character that the 450 of us NBA players possess," NBPA vice president Maurice Evans of the Wizards said. "You're not just going to go out and find that at random to replace this product; that should definitely be noted."

To date, Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams' deal with Turkish team Besiktas is still the only one signed by a top NBA player since the lockout began July 1. Commissioner David Stern has downplayed the overseas option, believing there isn't the money or comforts to entice his superstars. But lower-level players might choose any contract over no guaranteed payment back home anytime soon.

More than 40 players are in Las Vegas this week taking part in a league at the Impact Basketball academy, so union leaders decided to go there to speak with them. Meanwhile, owners will be meeting in Dallas. Stern has said there won't be any decisions at Thursday's session to cancel training camps, which were scheduled to begin in less than three weeks.

Despite Tuesday's lack of progress, Fisher said his message won't change much Thursday -- because it's been cautious all along.

"I don't think we've minced our words in terms of our guys understanding that this was a moment that we expected to find ourselves in starting over two years ago," Fisher said. "We expected to be here, we anticipated that, we felt like our owners were strong enough in their position ... that they'd be possibly willing to risk time lost in the season to get the things they needed in this particular round of collective bargaining."

Hunter and Fisher likely will have to address the concept of decertification during their presentation. NFL players dissolved their union this year so they could file an antitrust lawsuit against the league, though they ultimately resolved their dispute with owners.

Hunter's preferred course has been to wait for a ruling on a charge the union filed against the league with the National Labor Relations Board for unfair bargaining practices.

"We've never really had any discussions about decertification," Hunter said. "As you're aware, we've obviously been experiencing some pressure, at least in the media, from some of the agents about decertification. But that's not a message that's crossed our lips."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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