This is it.
When talks resume on Saturday, we’re either going to make progress towards beginning a season, or probably end it completely.
That’s because, after all this time, the players have finally started seriously talking about decertification.
At least 50 frustrated players convened on a conference call Thursday with an antitrust lawyer to discuss the ins and outs of the decertification process, sources told ESPN.com. It was the second such call this week, sources said, after a similar call Tuesday.
The most vocal player on both calls, sources said, was Boston’s Paul Pierce. Those same sources identified Miami’s Dwyane Wade as another vocal participant Thursday, with Orlando’s Dwight Howard and Boston’s Ray Allen also speaking up Tuesday.
This sets the stage for one final push to avoid what no one really wants. As much tough talk as there’s been, losing a season benefits no one. Too much money gets lost for too long for that to truly be a viable option. But it may yet come to pass. Because neither side can muster up whatever it takes to move off their entrenched positions and meet in the middle of the two percent gap that separates them.
Decertification is part strategy, part revolt. The strategy aspect forces the owners to face the very real possibility that they will be called on their bluff to blow out a season. And while some small market guys wouldn’t mind that, there are plenty of owners who want to avoid that at all costs. Actually talking about it and having the calls and meetings with attorneys could be the impetus for owners to give in and be happy with getting almost everything they wanted.
The revolt aspect shows this is very likely the last we’ll see of Billy Hunter in the NBPA. He’s not pushing for decertification. He’s resisted it from the start. But this time, players will vote on their own, bypassing him completely and taking matters into their own hands. This is agents asserting their authority over the players and starting to pull some strings. The mere fact that this is even being discussed indicates Hunter really is a lame duck.
This entire thing is starting to fall apart at the seams. The union is starting to crumble. Owners are at odds. And the season hangs in the balance. This truly is a do-or-die weekend. My heart tells me there is too much at stake, and that both sides can see they’re so close to bridging this gap, to let it all fall apart over a lousy two percent. But my head sees the insane devolution of these talks, so the nonsensical is an all too real possibility.
So we wait. Will they draw pistols at high noon and kill the season? Or will reason finally take hold?