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NBA owners, union head to court in legal battle Wednesday

Nov 2, 2011, 9:15 AM EDT

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The Miami Heat will not travel to face the Knicks and officially christen the renovated Madison Square Garden Wednesday as originally planned. The lockout drags on and the NBA and its players union are not even scheduled to meet and talk in the near future.

But good news — some NBA lawyers are going to make a lot more money Wednesday.

That’s because Wednesday the two sides will be in a New York courtroom having their first arguments in a preemptive lawsuit filed by the league. The goal of that lawsuit was to throw water on any plans the union had to decertify. The league’s suit asks that the lockout be ruled as lawful so it cannot be attacked by anti-trust lawsuits — the primary goal of decertifying the union is to sue the league on anti-trust grounds.

But wait a second, you say — the union has not even tried to decertify yet. You’re right (and that’s what the union says). But the league wanted to squelch that idea back on Aug. 2 when it filed the lawsuit.

That same suit asks that if decertification of the union is allowed, the league should be able to void all existing NBA contracts.

The union filed to have this case thrown out, basically calling it frivolous. That is what the two sides will be arguing today, whether the case should even go forward.

What the owners were really doing with this lawsuit is what is called “forum shopping” in legal circles — filing a pre-emptive strike in a district considered more favorable to your case so that the other side doesn’t get to choose the venue. So long as this suit is alive pretty much all NBA anti-trust issues would be heard in the same district in New York (where the league has gotten favorable rulings in he past).

Also at the heart of this is the union’s outside legal counsel Jeffrey Kessler. He is a bulldog in negotiations and was the guy that advised the NFL players union to decertify. The league and owners can’t stand him. He has been a known proponent of decertification for the NBA (or at least was early in the process) and the league says their case is valid because Kessler brought the issue in the media and elsewhere.

This is all legal wrangling for the hypothetical situation that the players union goes the route of decertifying and then having players sue he league on anti-trust grounds.

Frankly, if we get to that at this point the entire NBA season is toast. So NBA fans shouldn’t really care who wins today’s legal wrangling, they should care that soon it all becomes moot.

  1. somekat - Nov 2, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Well, not true at all. If the league were to win, the players would have less of a leg to stand on because their “nuclear” option would be off the table. If anything, it would nuke themselves, since it would give the owners the option to void all contracts
    On the other hand, if the players win, they still hold the decertification threat in their back pocket

    But being a lemming for the union, I’m sure you don’t want that to point that out, because, rightly so, the union are going to lose this arguement

  2. yikes123 - Nov 2, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    Today the NBA means, New Bigger Wallets (for the lawyers). The acrimony in this spat is so unnecessary, but then there are so many voices screaming within the NBPA (about money – not working conditions) …..the divisive, self-interested agents & their super-stars who think they have “given up enough…..the mid-level & lower guys who want (need) to get back to work…..the NBPA lawyers who make more money the longer this spat lasts……and the egos, oh man, the egos.

    The NBA stated, year or more ago….”we are losing money” here are audited financials, you all do the math. They are not like the Federal Govt who can go to China to borrow to operate an unprofitable organization. The players don’t like the math…but then never their best subject.

    Without the owners, the players are just a bunch of tall muscular guys. Without the players the owners are just a bunch of entertainment businesspeople. They have a mutual need, and responsibility.

    Hoping the battle today helps bring this war to an end ….and eventually a 50-50 deal. (okay a 51-49 deal).

  3. ghelton03 - Nov 2, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    This is strictly about getting home court advantage.

  4. fenway9999 - Nov 2, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    This is getting more and more ridiculous with every article that is written. Both sides are losing huge sums of money at this point, as they have already lost more money than what separates them. It is time for the legal wrangling and BS tostop and a deal to be made. I for one believe the owners are inthe right here and should get a 50-50 split as they are the ones taking all the risk. When the NBA team loses money for the season are the players on that team going to give back any of their salary to offset the losses? The NBA is going to be in big trouble trying to win back fans when this stupidity does end, and not the diehards because they will come back. Its the evryday fan they need back in order to make money and the veryday fan really doesn’t give a $hit right now. Sad times when common sense can’t prevail.

  5. eaglessuperfan - Nov 3, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    Don’t they learn anything…. The NFL tried this whole thing it goes nowhere. Get in a room and talk until you have a meeting point. If the owners are truly going to not budge which it seems they are not then you have to take what U can get. It is like going into a boss’s office and turning down a new Audi company car holding on the principal that you deserve a Benz.

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