NBA AM: Time for Decertification?
The NBA’s players and owners couldn’t agree to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday, and now the clock is ticking to strike a deal before the season is shortened. If the two sides fail to reach an agreement by Monday, the first two weeks of the regular season will be canceled.
While that leaves some hope for a deal to be reached in the next five days, the fact that there are no future meetings scheduled hurts those odds. When asked when the next meeting will be held, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter told reporters yesterday, “Maybe a month, maybe two months.” If that’s the case, we’ll see many more games canceled and things will get ugly.
Hunter made another interesting comment during yesterday’s union press conference. For the first time, he said that “decertification is something we have to give some thought to.” That comment comes after months of fighting off top agents who support decertification and recently bringing NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to an NBPA meeting to warn against dissolving the union.
As of two weeks ago, NBPA vice president Maurice Evans told HOOPSWORLD that decertification wasn’t being considered by the union.
“We’ve never mentioned decertification,” Evans said. “We have a National Labor Relations Board case pending and any mention of decertification would be detrimental to that case. Nobody on the board – none of the players that are actually informed – has made any mention of decertification.”
Yesterday, a hearing in U.S. District Court ruled that oral arguments would be set for November 2 in the NBPA’s motion to the dismiss the NBA’s lawsuit. It’s starting to look more and more like this will be settled with a legal battle, similar to the NFL’s lockout.
After yesterday’s setback, multiple agents told HOOPSWORLD that they’ll continue to push for the union to decertify, and Hunter’s willingness to give it some thought will only give those player representatives momentum.
The agents are working diligently to force the union to vote on decertification. They’ll need 30 percent of players to sign a petition and then a majority vote to officially dissolve the union. As of right now, reports have suggested that the agents don’t have enough players on their side to decertify, but the recent setbacks and comments could help change that in the coming weeks.
While there had been some threats that owners would shred contracts if the union were to decertify, the agents are prepared to call the league’s bluff. They don’t believe the NBA will void contracts, but if they do, several agents have told HOOPSWORLD that a lawsuit would be filed for each individual player.
Both sides have expressed a willingness to meet before Monday, but that doesn’t mean they’ll reach a deal. The more likely scenario is that the lockout will continue, with the setting of the talks possibly changing from hotel conference rooms to courtrooms.
Healthy Taft Eyeing Comeback: Chris Taft is determined to make an NBA comeback, whenever the lockout ends and play resumes. After being drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2005, Taft experienced back spasms and needed surgery to repair a herniated disk, which led to his release the following October.
Now, after experiencing a number of health issues early in his career, the 26-year-old is determined to return to the league and prove that he can still be an effective player after a promising college career at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I’m working out in Atlanta and I’m completely healthy,” Taft told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s been a long journey, but I’m happy to get back on the court.”
In the last five years, Taft has faced a lifetime full of adversity. After his back surgery and release from the Warriors, he learned that he was battling much more than a herniated disk.
“After the surgery, I told the doctor that I was feeling symptoms related to my muscles,” Taft said. “They ran some tests and I was diagnosed with polymyositis, which is an inflammatory muscle condition. That’s the main reason that nobody has seen or heard from me during these past couple of years. I’ve been dealing with that muscle condition. Doctors told me that I would never be able to play again. They said that I would struggle to walk again.”
“I kept working hard, had faith in God and now I haven’t had any issues in two years,” he continued. “What I’m doing now is amazing the doctors, they can’t believe it. I tell them that the natural side is the hard work I’m putting in and the supernatural side is just God healing me of that condition.”
Taft’s condition usually affects adults in their forties and fifties and remissions are described as “rare.” Because of his age and work ethic, Taft has been an exception to the rule and his recovery has stunned doctors. For the past two years, he has been able to complete strenuous workouts and play in full contact pick-up games without feeling any symptoms. He has been cleared by his doctors and he says he’s completely healthy for the first time since his days at Pittsburgh.
“I haven’t had any health issues in two years and I’m excited,” Taft said. “I haven’t felt this good since my freshman year in college. That was the last time that I was really feeling good like this and I’m happy to be healthy again. I haven’t had back problems in years. I haven’t had any muscle problems. My trainer has been working me, and I’m ready for November. People don’t really understand what’s been going on with me recently, but I’m excited to get my name back out there, show people I’m healthy and do whatever it takes to get back on the court.”
Prior to entering the NBA, Taft never had any health problems. He wasn’t a player who was labeled as injury prone, which made his health issues even more shocking and frustrating during his rookie year.
“It was really frustrating,” Taft said. “Before I got into the NBA, I never missed a game. I never had an injury. I started playing basketball when I was 11 or 12 years old and I went through junior high, high school and college without missing any games or practices. When I got to the NBA, I was really feeling confident about my body and game, but then I injured my back in my second summer league game and it started.”
Now, he’s looking forward to November, when the NBA Development League gets underway. He had a brief stint with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in 2007, but it ended with an ankle injury. Now, Taft will return to the league, with the hope that it’ll lead to an NBA roster spot. He understands that teams will want to see what he can do and whether or not he can stay healthy before taking a chance on him. His goal is to dominate in the D-League, which could open up other opportunities in the NBA and overseas.
“My agent, B.J. Bass, and I are leaning toward the D-League,” Taft said. “Before I got injured, I was having a good time. I was doing well in practice and in games, while getting good exposure to NBA and overseas teams. Those teams are looking at you daily. The plan is to get ready for the D-League and then go from there.”
Taft insists that he can still contribute on an NBA team and he wants the chance to prove it.
“I can bring a lot of the same things that I brought before,” Taft said. “I run the floor, rebound, defend, block shots and score down low. Now, I have more post moves and I’ve worked hard to be a more complete player. I’m wiser and better than ever. I’m ready to play.”
Taft has overcome every obstacle put in his way since entering the league. Now, he’s healthy and his fate in his hands. If he can play well in the D-League, Taft could reappear on the NBA radar and begin to tap into his potential.
News and Notes: Here are several news and notes from the yesterday’s labor meeting.
• Yesterday’s setback may lead to more players signing overseas. Many undrafted free agents and minimum salary players have been keeping an eye on the talks to determine their next step. Some players were holding out hope that the lockout would come to an end before regular season games were canceled. Since that doesn’t appear to be the case, don’t be surprised to see a second wave of players sign abroad.
• If the NBA is hoping that players will begin to squirm when they start missing checks, they may be out of luck. The NBPA has been preparing their players for four years. They’ve encouraged the players to save money and provided them with escrow checks this summer. If that wasn’t enough, sources close to the union say that several well-paid veterans are willing to put money into a lockout fund, which would be distributed to players over the duration of the work stoppage.
• After yesterday’s meeting, the union announced that they will fund and open workout centers for players in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston and Miami.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There are two chats on the schedule today. First, CBA guru Larry Coon kicks things off with his salary cap chat at 3 p.m. ET. Next up, Mark Nugent will take over at 5 p.m. ET. Both of these chats fill up fast so be sure to submit your questions now. To view all of HOOPSWORLD’s upcoming chats, click here.