Reporting from Las Vegas -- Moving to reaffirm its solidarity in the face of discouraging labor negotiations, the National Basketball Players Assn. gathered with players participating in a so-called “lockout league” here Thursday.
“We had a very colorful and engaging meeting covering the several topics and issues facing us and came out as unified and together as we’ve been through this whole process,” Lakers point guard and union President Derek Fisher said.
An estimated 35 NBA players stood behind Fisher wearing green T-shirts reading “Stand.”
While NBA owners simultaneously gathered in Dallas with training camp scheduled to start in less than three weeks, the players received a briefing about the possibility of union decertification from NFL Players Assn. head DeMaurice Smith.
Billy Hunter, head of the NBA players union, told reporters afterward no decision has been made on the possibility of decertification, which would probably be followed by an antitrust lawsuit against owners attempting to reduce salaries from $2.15 billion to $2 billion with a hard salary cap.
Decertification, Hunter said, “is no silver bullet.”
Hunter added he expects the National Labor Relations Board to rule perhaps within three weeks on the union’s complaint that owners aren’t bargaining in good faith. The NBA says 23 of 30 teams lost money in 2009-10, but players contend that problem can be solved if the owners fix their revenue-sharing system.
Fisher all but confirmed reports the players have agreed to move from being paid 57% of the NBA’s basketball-related income to 53%, maintaining the union doesn’t want to accept a guaranteed salary figure with a hard cap.
“As the main asset in a game that continues to produce record revenues, we should share in that success,” Fisher said. “We’re not being unfair or unreasonable. We will stay in that position until we get a fair deal done.
“Our ultimate desire is to play basketball, but certain principles and facts are important, and that’s what we want to stand for. … We have one point only: that we’re together and unified. There’s not a fracture or separation in this group.”
Samardo Samuels, a rookie forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, said players at Thursday’s meeting expressed unity.
“The owners are trying to be tough,” Samuels said outside the Vdara Hotel. “It’s a challenge, a war we have to fight.”
Hunter said that after a session Tuesday that NBA Commissioner David Stern described as “not a good day,” he’s awaiting word from the owners on when the sides will resume negotiating. The regular season is scheduled to begin Nov. 1, and Hunter said players would begin missing paychecks Nov. 16.
“We’ve been preparing for this moment for two years now.… Guys have been strong in their preparation for what this might bring, whether it ends tomorrow or a year from now,” Fisher said.