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Video: CNBC’s Darren Rovell talks missed NBA paychecks

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Tuesday would have been the first payday of the first payday of the year for NBA players — as of today they are missing paychecks. How much money are we talking? CNBC’s Darren Rovell breaks it out for some of the big names and yes, Kobe Bryant just missed a more than $1 million payday. But of course, that’s before taxes, after taxes it’s barely enough to live on (*cough*).

Some owners thought going into this that if the players missed a paycheck or two the owners leverage would skyrocket. Instead, the players have dissolved the union as its negotiator and filed antitrust lawsuits against the owners. They are fighting back.

Which may well doom the season.

Some players have not felt ‘in the loop’ with union

Glen Davis, Antonio McDyess

When NBA union director Billy Hunter asked for a show of hands in a New York hotel on Monday it was unanimous. All the guys in the room backed the idea of the union filing a “disclaimer of interest” and taking the fight to the courts.

But for some rank-and-file players who would rather just get back on the court, they don’t feel heard in all this.

Take what Glen Davis told the Boston Herald. The Celtics (well, free agent) forward speaks for others.

“I don’t think I’ve been kept in the loop as far as what’s going on and how things are going on,” he said. “I want to be kept in the loop, but when I say that, they say, well, come to the meetings.

“It’s not just Paul (Pierce, Celtics team rep) making that decision,” said Davis. “It’s also Derek (Fisher) and Billy Hunter. I talk to players, but my friends are guys like Paul and (Kevin Garnett) – guys who are in a different stage of their careers. I don’t talk to a lot of the guys who are more in my stage, like Carl Landry and DeJuan Blair.”

On the other coast, Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins was frustrated, too, as are a number of younger players, he told the Sacramento Bee.

“Some of the young players I talked to, it’s not about the money. We just want to go out there and play ball,” Cousins said. “For me, it’s knocking off time for me to be improving as a player. This whole situation is really not helping out us younger players.”

With 450 members in the players’ union — well, trade association now — it’s not going to be able to keep everyone happy. Some guys care and seek out the information, others stand back and let others take the lead. Not everyone is going to seek out the information on where things stand.

But remember that while the sentiment in that New York hotel conference room was unanimous, it is not across the full width of the NBA.

It was players’ idea to decertify, but did they really understand?

Derek Fish of NBA players association speaks during news conference to reject NBA's latest offer in New York

How did this all go down? How did a Monday meeting where the union representatives were expected to reject the latest offer from the owners and make a counter proposal turn into dissolving the entire union and likely blowing up the NBA season with it?

The whole idea came from the players… well, if you think the players sit around and discuss the merits of different tactics of NBA labor law. So maybe we should look to the agents, except they are not thrilled with this move. Billy Hunter said did not come from union leadership. But while nobody will take credit, everybody had a hand in it at some level.

In the end, it comes back to the players. It’s their union. And this is how athletes react — they are competitive and will fight to win. They can make emotional decisions about winning that may not play out well in board rooms. They’ve been losing the negotiations so they responded in the most aggressive way they could. They took out the biggest club in their bag, even if this was not the best play at the time. And now here we are, staring at a lost season.

Here is what happened in Monday’s NBPA meeting, as reported by Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

As Hunter described, union officials explained the owners’ proposal, which would’ve been replaced by a far worse one if the players didn’t accept it. He then laid out the options: present it to the full body for a vote; reject it; make a counterproposal; or give the NBPA the authority to “do whatever they deem necessary and appropriate going forward,” Hunter said.

“And then all of a sudden, the players said, ‘No, we want to talk about decertification or disclaimer,’ ” Hunter said. “So it actually came from the floor. And when it came from the floor, then that’s when we began to engage on the issue….

Players are not stupid and they understood the basic idea here, but did they really think through all the consequences? It’s hard to see enough guys getting behind this without a push from their agents, some of whom wanted to decertify July 1. That said, agents had been pushing for a player-led decertification effort that would have taken at least another 45 days (leaving time for negotiations). The disclaimer method — essentially the union disavowing the players — is much faster but much riskier. It’s not a move most agents wanted.

The decision to disclaim, announced after the nearly four-hour player meeting, stunned even those agents who had been clamoring for the players to decertify for months. Agents held a conference call late Monday afternoon, and according to a person who was briefed on it, hardly any of them were happy with the path the union chose….

“This is honestly the last thing I would’ve done,” one moderate agent said of the union’s disclaimer. “I can’t imagine these [players] truly know what they’ve gotten themselves into. … I don’t know an agent, including the decert agents, who are happy with this move.”

Did the players really get the consequences, that this may well have cost the NBA an entire season? And over what? Full mid-level exceptions for the seven teams playing the tax every season and to eliminate the repeater tax hikes for those teams? I get they players want a system that allows them more freedom of movement, but they got painted into a corner by Stern and rather than throwing the ball back in his court (with a counter proposal) they blew up the entire season. Stern gets to win the PR game again.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo pulled no punches on what he thought happened.

Too many of the player reps didn’t know the difference between a disclaimer of interest, decertification and “Dancing with the Stars” when they walked into that meeting. As it usually goes in these labor talks, whoever gets the players’ ears last can talk them in and out of almost any directive. The agents were locked out, cell phones confiscated at the door, and Hunter had a captive audience with some big fancy antitrust lawyers to make his case. Too many of those player reps are young kids who were given the task as a locker-room punishment, or older guys looking for the free annual meeting in the Caribbean.

Before they went this route, the NBA players should have talked to their NHL brethren and asked if losing a season was worth it, or if those guys regret the lost chances and lost salary more? It doesn’t feel like this strategy was really thought out all the way around the block.

Agents may sue league on behalf of locked out rookies

2011 NBA Draft

If there is one group of sympathetic players in this unsympathetic lockout situation, it’s the just drafted rookies — guys who came out of college (or over from Europe) to live their NBA dream, only to be locked out. They exist in a limbo: locked to teams but without contracts, not yet part of the union either. They are basically powerless.

A few agents are looking to change that — they are looking to sue the league on behalf of those rookies, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

These would be anti-trust suits like the one other players will file against the league once the union formally dissolves. It was something discussed as part of an agent conference call on Monday.

Does it really change anything? No. Kyrie Irving and Jimmer Fredette and Enes Kanter are not going to have more money in their pockets or real leverage in the talks. But it gives them the impression somebody is doing something for them. And at this point that is about all they can get. So they’ll probably take it.

So now what happens with NBA lockout? Here’s a guide.

Hunter and Fisher of the NBA speak during news conference to reject NBA's latest offer in New York

Time to be up front — we’re not sure how this is all going to play out.

Part of the goal of the union rejecting the owners’ latest offer and filing a “disclaimer of interest” (to be followed by antitrust lawsuits against the league) was to throw some uncertainty into the process. To shake the owners out of their comfort zone. To change the tone of the debate.

All of which makes it hard to predict the path ahead. But it’s fair to question if it really changes the end game. If it will really change the outcome or just delay it?

All that said, here is the best guess on how things shake out now.

By filing a “disclaimer of interest” it is essentially the union walking away from the players (as Gabriel Feldman pointed out at the Orlando Sentinel). The union is refusing to represent the players in the collective bargaining process (compared to the players filing to decertify the union, as agents had suggested). It speeds the process along, so you can expect a few players to file antitrust lawsuits against the league probably by the end of the week.

The league will counter with efforts to get the disclaimer thrown out — much as the NFL tried to do when its players’ union decertified earlier this year. The NFL called the decertification a “sham,” and you can bet the NBA attorneys will follow in those footsteps. That will be the first skirmish between the lawyers.

The other early legal fight likely will be over venue of the lawsuits — the league filed its pre-emptive lawsuit in New York in part to do some “forum shopping” and get a legal court they liked. The players will almost certainly file in different districts they think give them the advantage. Then everybody can get together and pay lawyers to argue about where they will argue.

After that, well, it’s likely legal skirmishes over Summary Judgment by the union (they are expected to request it) or an injunction, plus other issues around discovery and other pre-trial things. In case you’re curious, we’re probably in January by now — and the season will officially be lost.

What the union really wants is a quick strike, which is what new union attorney David Boies said, according to Larry Coon over at ESPN.

“Even if you could get an injunction,” Boies said, “… it would be, obviously, a drawn-out process. And I think what the players are focusing on right now is, what is the fastest way to get this resolved?”

Boies also indicted that the players could continue to negotiate without a union. “The class-action settlement discussion,” Boies added, “just like [what] took place in the NFL, [would happen] without any association’s direct involvement. It’s the class that would be making any settlement if there was one.”

It all means NBA commissioner David Stern was right — this was a negotiating tactic by the union. Unless you think the union is willing to miss a couple of seasons to see this all they way through to judgement. (Hint, they are not.) They want quick-strike leverage.

Which means in the end this is going to be negotiated between the sides, with the lawsuits and decertification as a backdrop to a deal hammered out the old fashion way. Billy Hunter and Stern — and the attorneys on both sides — are going to have to sit down in a room and figure this all out still. It will still be a negotiated settlement, just in a legally different way.

Which means, if the two sides start talking again next month, we could see a deal in time to save a 50-game-or-so season (as happened in 1999).

If you’re an optimist, the promise of maybe 50 games is the best we can do. If you’re feeling pessimistic about an NBA season, well, welcome to the club.