After lawyers for NBA players filed antitrust suits against the league in California and Minnesota, commissioner David Stern has a conference call set with owners on Thursday to discuss their next steps in the lockout, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The NBA’s labor relations committee, which is responsible for negotiations with the players, scheduled the call earlier in the week, sources said.
Shortly after the Players Association declared on Monday that it would disband as a union and file suit, Stern suggested in a TV interview that the NBA wouldn’t be in a rush to initiate contact with the players’ attorneys.
Antitrust attorney David Boies, who is leading the players’ suit, wants the owners to negotiate a new labor deal through him.
For several reasons, it won't be easy to get the owners to move quickly toward re-engaging the new leadership of the players. Many owners believed Stern had gone too far with the league's final proposal to the union and were privately wishing for the players to reject the offer so they could thrust upon the players a far more rigid "reset" deal.
Also, Stern and many owners have such a visceral and personal disdain for players attorney Jeffrey Kessler, whom they blame for the breakdown in talks and eventual move toward the "disclaimer of interest" filing. Kessler drew the ire of Stern and the owners for saying the owners were treating the players like "plantation workers" in an interview with The Washington Post – a comment for which Kessler later apologized. Stern responded by saying Kessler "has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations" and by calling Kessler's conduct "routinely despicable."
It seems unlikely Stern and the owners will want to be viewed as being in such fear of the legal battle that they're rushing back to swiftly cut a less favorable deal with the players.
Carmelo Anthony(notes), Kevin Durant(notes), Chauncey Billups(notes), Kawhi Leonard(notes) and Leon Powe(notes) were listed as plaintiffs in the suit filed in Oakland, Calif. The initial case management conference for the suit is scheduled for Feb. 29, 2012, but can be moved up, court officials said.
Caron Butler(notes), Anthony Tolliver(notes), Ben Gordon(notes) and Derrick Williams(notes) are listed as plaintiffs in a second suit filed against the league in Minneapolis. The players are seeking "treble" damages in the suits, triple the $2 billion they could have made with a full season.
Boies said the suits were filed as a result of the owners "overplaying their hand" in negotiations with the players.
"You don’t give up hundreds of millions of dollars unless you want to make a deal and that’s what the players were doing,” Boies said. “I think it was mistake to push it as far as [the owners] did.”
Yahoo! Sports' NBA reporter Marc J. Spears contributed to this report.
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