Agents Make Their Play In Lockout

The owners and players will not meet until early August (at the earliest) for formal negotiations. The lockout is very much at a standstill right now as the two sides plan their strategy for the next confrontation. Owners have seen two sizeable paychecks head the players’ way as the league did not give the players 57% of the basketball-related income during the season, something that had never happened before in the 12-year history of the now-expired collective bargaining agreement.

There really is no telling at this point where the players and owners will go during that meeting. And that gives the player agents time to inject themselves into this negotiation. With millions of dollars on the line for their clients, agents desperately want in.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported Saturday that the agents urged NBPA executive director Billy Hunter to get more aggressive, including possibly decertifying. That was much the same road the NFL went down, but obviously there are much different issues in the NBA. Decertification is a strategy Hunter said he has explored, but he is still preaching patience.

That is not sitting well with the third party with the most power in this high-stakes game of chicken.

“Right now, it’s a respectful disagreement with [the agents] and Billy,” an agent briefed on the meeting told Yahoo! Sports. “But it’s getting to a ‘[expletive]-you’ point. We will blow this thing up.”

That sounds pretty bad. Well, if you are an agent at least. Wojnarowski reported agents believe Hunter is waiting around and being too diplomatic. They seem ready to go to war.

 

 

And like in 1998, when the agents played a large role in the players’ ultimate alienation of fans, the agents will have a say in how this collective bargaining agreement is shaped because they are the business representatives of the players.

Agents have already played a vital role in the lockout already. Like the union, agents have been on board encouraging players to save up cash in preparation for what they expected to be a lengthy work stoppage. Some players with Raymond Brothers as their agent, including Caron Butler, Zach Randolph and Al Farouq-Aminu, have opted to spread out their paychecks over the next two years and receive a paycheck once every month rather than once every two weeks as is typical in the NBA. This, they hope, will help them control their spending a little bit.

But that hardly solves the long-term problem. There just may not be basketball for a while and right now the agents disagree with Hunter on the proper strategy for the union to take.

Decertification has its advantages and drawbacks. The reason you decertify is to pull the league into antitrust litigation by, pretty much, saying the league is no longer negotiating in good faith. That is how the NBA keeps its antitrust status.

It is an aggressive move that Hunter does not seem ready to take right now. That is especially considering the claim the union has pending with the National Labor Relations Board. It also carries some risk including the owners potentially voiding every contract in the league, as Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk suggests might happen.

There is still uncertainty about what the next move is for the players and the owners in this never-ending battle. And the uncertainty deepens when you consider the infighting going on in both camps. Add the agents into the mix and you have a formula with far too many variables to find a solution at this point.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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