David Stern cites agents as deal hurdle

NEW YORK -- Commissioner David Stern blamed "greedy" NBA agents Saturday for trying to scuttle a new labor deal and believes they are trying to push their clients into a "losing strategy" of decertification.

And Stern says neither the threat of that process nor any request from the union will change the league's negotiating position, repeating that there would be no further discussions about the revised proposal it offered Thursday. If players don't accept it, Stern reiterated that he would move to the harsher proposal that is waiting.

Stern is aware of the numerous comments from players criticizing the proposal, and fears they aren't getting the proper information about its contents because agents worry it will cost themselves money.

"By some combination of mendacity and greed, the agents who are looking out for themselves rather than their clients are trying to scuttle the deal," Stern said in a phone interview. "They're engaged in what appears to be an orchestrated Twitter campaign and a series of interviews that are designed to deny the economic realities of the proposal."

Players union executive committee members are meeting informally Sunday afternoon to examine the owners' new proposal, a source told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher. No vote or decisions, though, will be made until Monday.

The indication Thursday from union leaders was that they weren't impressed with it, and a number of players have since been quoted saying they would shoot down the deal.

Stern said that's because the agents want them to, not because it's a bad offer.

"No one talks about the rise in compensation under the deal, no one talks about the amount of money being spent," Stern said. "I just think that the players aren't getting the information, the true information from their agents, who are banding together, sort of the coalition of the greedy and the mendacious, to do whatever they can not to have fewer opportunities for the agents to make money."

The revised proposal, though still far short of what the players had in the former collective bargaining agreement, offered some improvements over the one players said Tuesday they would reject. It increased the "mini" midlevel exception for teams over the luxury tax to $3 million annually for three years, allowed taxpayers to take part in sign-and-trades for the first two years, and added another midlevel for teams under the salary cap.

It still may not be good enough, and players already are discussing decertifying the union so they can file an antitrust lawsuit against the league instead. Stern said neither that, nor the union disclaiming as NFL players did, would give the players the leverage they seek.

And because it's a lengthy process, it would likely kill any hopes for a 2011-12 season.

"Yes, I am worried," Stern said, "because they're talking up this thing called decertification which is not a winning strategy on the one hand. On the second hand, it'll take three months to teach them it's not a winning strategy, which would not augur well for the season.

"The agents misunderstand it and all it does is delay things. They themselves think that if the players decertify, then the league will change its offer. And that will not happen as a result of decertification. It's a losing strategy for them."

Stern again said there would be no further discussion about the revised proposal. Should players reject it, the next proposal calls for a 53-47 revenue split in favor of the owners, a flex cap with a hard ceiling, and salary rollbacks.

Stern said the proposal was delivered to the union Friday. Union leaders have been criticized for not getting the details of it out to players in time to prepare them for an educated vote.

"They say they are done negotiating. If we really are at that point, the players need to see exactly what is on the table -- not the Internet, not Twitter -- and see exactly in writing, this is the proposal," one agent said.

Should players accept the deal, a 72-game season would start Dec. 15. Stern said he hoped the season could be saved, but added that he wasn't sure what to believe because "the agents are trying to do their best to bring it down."

And if Stern were running the meeting Monday, he knows what he would tell the player reps.

"This is our only shot to get a 72-game season starting on Dec 15. Take the deal, let's go back and play basketball," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.