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Players union will file to dismiss NBA lawsuit

Aug 5, 2011, 11:32 AM EDT

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And so the legal wrangling begins…

The National Basketball Players Association — what the rest of us call the players union — will file to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the NBA this week, reports Ken Berger at CBS Sports.

The NBA’s lawsuit was a pre-emptive strike against possible union decertification. A group of player agents had pushed union executive director Billy Hunter to consider decertification then have some players sue the league on anti-trust grounds — the tactic the NFL players union used — but the NBA’s union has resisted going down that road. So far.

The decision is hardly stunning, considering (union) attorney Jeffrey Kessler’s strident rejection of the basis for the league’s suit, which seeks declaratory judgment from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that the lockout is legal. Also, the NBA is seeking protection on antitrust grounds from a possible decertification by the players (or disclaimer of interest to represent them by the union) and has proclaimed its intention to void all existing contracts if the NBPA dissolves.

Kessler told CBSSports.com Tuesday the lawsuit has “no merit,” and that he intends to use it as evidence of the league’s bad-faith bargaining in a separate charge pending before the National Labor Relations Board.

This is standard operating procedure. With just about every lawsuit filed, the first move by the other side is to file to get the judge to just dismiss it immediately. Unless both sides really want to go into discovery. Neither side in the NBA battle really wants to go too far down this legal rabbit hole — you really think the owners want every NBA contract out there invalidated? You think Heat owner Micky Arison wants it? Clay Bennett in Oklahoma City? No, they don’t.

Two things I do take from this move by the league. One, they wanted to pick the venue where the legal fights would take place, and they picked the Second District in New York because they had won rulings there in the past.

Second, union decertification scares the league.

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