UPDATE 3:58 pm: Here is commissioner David Stern’s official statement, released by the league:
“At a bargaining session in February 2010, Jeffrey Kessler, counsel for the union, threatened that the players would abandon the collective bargaining process and start an antitrust lawsuit against our teams if they did not get a bargaining resolution that was acceptable to them.
“In anticipation of this day, the NBA filed an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board asserting that, by virtue of its continued threats, the union was not bargaining in good faith. We also began a litigation in federal court in anticipation of this same bargaining tactic.
“The NBA has negotiated in good faith throughout the collective bargaining process, but — because our revised bargaining proposal was not to its liking – the union has decided to make good on Mr. Kessler’s threat.
“There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy.”
3:35 pm: Minutes after the NBA players’ union held a press conference saying they would decertify, David Stern went on ESPN to decry the move and say it was a mistake by players that would cost the season.
Stern spun it so that it was the players who pushed the button, saying his side had put forth a fair labor offer that the players rejected. Here are the key points of Stern’s comments.
• Stern says this wasn’t really a surprise, that the union and its legal counsel have threatened this from the start. The league expected this, which is why they filed a pre-emptive lawsuit to try to cut it off at the knees. (That case is early in the process, and there have been no rulings.)
• Along those lines, Stern keeps calling decertification a negotiating tactic. Which it is. But by all indications (based on the owners’ actions) it is the one they feared.
• Stern again tries to appeal directly to the players, saying they should ask the union why they did this now. That has been his pattern for weeks, to use the media to talk directly to the players. He talks about the players’ missing paychecks a lot.
• Stern said they did not give the players an ultimatum. Yes, they did. A proposal where you say, “If you don’t take it, we’re going to make a much worse offer next time” is an ultimatum. And it’s that hardline, take-it-or-leave-it phrasing that doomed this process as much as anything else. Neither side has negotiated well, acting a lot more like 5-year-olds fighting over who gets to play with the Transformer toy.
• Stern is spot on with this comment: “If they were going to do this, maybe they should have done this a long time ago so we had a chance to save the season. But they seem hell-bent on self-destruction.”
• Man, Stern really hates NBA legal council Jeffrey Kessler. It’s palpable. And by all accounts mutual.