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NBA Commissioner David Stern says it would be risky for NBA players to decertify their union.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday before the Charlotte Bobcats-Memphis Grizzlies game, Stern said if the union decertifies it wouldn't just mean the end of the NBA players association, it would nullify the labor contract as well.
That would allow players to challenge antitrust laws, the commissioner said, an opportunity they don't have with the collective bargaining agreement in place. But, he said, decertification is risky because there are $4 billion in guaranteed player contracts in effect for next season.
"It's a nuclear option," Stern said, "but I'm not sure whether it isn't the nuclear option that falls on the party that launches it."
Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBA players association, told The New York Times this week that the likelihood of decertifying the union was "pretty far off."
Hunter told the Times that decertification was just an option that was available in case of a lockout, but there was "nothing immediate."
The Sports Business Journal reported Monday that players from at least two teams had voted unanimously to authorize decertification, which could allow the players to sue the NBA if it attempted to impose a lockout when the collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30.
Hunter is meeting with teams to discuss the labor situation.
Stern said the goal of labor talks with the players association on a new CBA is to get more parity among teams through revenue-sharing and other stipulations.
In his comments Wednesday, Stern focused on the balance between competitiveness and economics as part of the negotiations. He noted that a hard salary cap, similar to what the National Football League has, might be a good model because the NFL is considered a league with competitive balance.
He said there will "be a more robust revenue-sharing arrangement" under the new collective bargaining agreement.
"It's about allowing teams to access the pool of available talent, and not have teams spend an inordinate sum of money and being able to simply pay a tax to have the better team," the commissioner said. "The whole concept of hardening of a cap is designed to make players available on a broader basis. Those are the things that are being talked about."
Stern also addressed other aspects of the negotiations, including the age minimum for players entering the league.
The NBA players association has asked for the minimum age to be rolled back to 18 instead of the current 19. Stern said teams want to avoid drafting players straight out of high school because they'd like to have an extra year to watch prospects at the collegiate level or in Europe before investing in them.
But some have said that makes a mockery out of NCAA Division I college basketball because after the first semester, top prospects no longer have to worry about being academically eligible if they plan to turn pro, so they stop going to class.
"If a school is without voice to say that they don't require the player to go to classes after January, that's very much their problem and not ours," Stern said.