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Attorneys for NBA, players exchange a few legal shots

Nov 16, 2011, 5:22 PM EDT

NBA lockout Stern Hunter

The court date has been set in California (Oakland, to be exact) for the players lawsuit against the owners — Feb. 29. By then, if no deal is reached, the entire season will be lost. Of course, anyone who has ever followed any kind of legal proceeding knows that the first court date set is meaningless. Everything gets moved around. And the players want it to move more quickly, anyway.

But even before a group of players sued the NBA and owners on antitrust grounds Tuesday, there was already a legal battle going on between the two sides. Remember that the league filed a preemptive lawsuit against the (then) union trying to take the teeth out of any union decertification efforts. The union filed to have that lawsuit dismissed.

Now with the legal battle opening up on new fronts, the attorneys for the players and league tried to reinforce their case original case. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe had asked for more information from both sides and he got it on Tuesday, reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

Unsurprisingly, the league argued that the NBPA’s decision to disclaim and take up its case with the NBA in federal court under antitrust law further supported the NBA’s contention when it filed the lawsuit Aug. 2 that the players were going to do that all along. …

League attorneys sought declaratory judgment from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that the lockout could not be challenged under antitrust law, asserting that the NBPA’s harboring of that threat was hindering negotiations and that a new CBA would be more easily reached if the court pre-emptively removed the threat. In a motion to dismiss, attorneys for the NBPA argued that the court lacked jurisdiction because there was no “ripe controversy” — since at the time the NBA sued, the union had yet to decertify or seriously consider it. Kessler reiterated those arguments Tuesday.

Gardephe’s eventual ruling could impact the lawsuits filed in California and Minnesota — the league wants him to rule the lockout cannot be challenged. He’s not likely to do that, yet anyway. Basically, expect this to just keep grinding on in the courts for a while, while no basketball is played but attorneys make outrageous fees.

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