NBA owners, union head to court in legal battle Wednesday

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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.