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The Jazz won't play basketball at EnergySolutions Arena anytime soon.
The NBA's doors will remain barred.
A bitter 137-day lockout that has seen hardline owners battle resilient players for control of the league has gone completely nuclear.
National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) executive director Billy Hunter said Monday the union has begun the process of dissolving, while an antitrust lawsuit bearing athletes' names will soon be filed against the NBA. Players will seek a summary judgment declaring the lockout illegal.
The strong one-two punch left the league scrambling. Attorneys instantly replaced owners, team executives, players and agents as the most important figures in an already heated labor war.
A work stoppage that has lasted 4½ months is expected to stretch into next year, and the entire 2011-12 season is suddenly on the verge of extinction just two weeks after the Jazz were scheduled to tip off an 82-game campaign Nov. 1 at ESA.
"We're about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA," commissioner David Stern said.
Stern's declaration on national television came minutes after Hunter dropped a bombshell during a news conference Monday in New York. The union had become a trade association, Hunter said, and he had sent a letter to Stern announcing a disclaimer of interest the fastest method possible to dissolve the NBPA.
Attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and David Boies, who took opposite legal sides during the recent NFL lockout, will guide basketball players in the courtroom and at the negotiating table if talks resume.
"We've arrived at the conclusion that the collective bargaining process has completely broken down," Hunter said.
Instant fallout • The union's unexpected decision followed a four-hour meeting that featured All-Stars Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, as well as the NBPA's executive committee. Player representatives from all 30 teams were scheduled to attend the session. However, The Salt Lake Tribune learned that the Jazz were not represented. Utah guard Raja Bell was in New York and initially planned to be at the meeting. But he told The Tribune he did not participate in the gathering.
"It's in the courts, and we'll see what happens," Bell said Monday night.
He declined further comment.
A few hours after Hunter's announcement, agent Max Ergul told The Tribune he was about to begin actively exploring overseas options for Jazz center Enes Kanter, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Spain and China represent Kanter's most likely destinations.
"We are definitely looking into it," Ergul said.
Michael McCann, director of the Vermont Sports Law Institute, said Monday's bombshell almost destroyed any remaining hope that the 2011-12 season could be salvaged. Regular-season games through November had previously been canceled, while training camps and the preseason had been erased from the calender. Cancellations through December are soon expected.
"Plausibly, this looks like a situation [that will take] months," said McCann, a legal analyst for NBA TV and SI.com. "Because of that, it's very likely that the season will be canceled."
Barring an unexpected resumption of talks, the lockout now will become a legal battle. The NBA drew first blood in the court system, filing a federal lawsuit Aug. 2 that seeks to establish that the lockout does not violate antitrust laws. The league also is requesting all existing player contracts become void and unenforceable, since the union that collectively bargained them has been dissolved. In addition, each side has pending charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the other of failing to bargain in good faith.
But players' antitrust suit could be a game-changer. Even with an expedited review, settling the case could take months. The NBA used Jan. 6, 1999, as a drop-dead date for the cancelation of the 1998-99 season, which is the only other campaign in the league's 65-year history that saw games erased due to a lockout. As players' attorneys seek a favorable, pro-union jurisdiction to file the antitrust suit likely the 9th Circuit in California McCann believes the NBA could react by canceling the 2011-12 season sooner than most expect.
"I don't think they're going to wait until the middle of January," McCann said. "I think we're looking at a sooner date. Maybe in December, where the league decides if the players want to pursue a litigation path, that's fine. But the consequence will be a year of lost income."
Fighting back • Stern dropped that hint Monday, referring to players whose last NBA season could be the 2010-11 year that ended in April, not the 2011-12 campaign that has yet to start.
"They seem hell-bent on self-destruction, and it's very sad," Stern said.
Backed into a corner by the commissioner and hardline owners, players ended more than two years' worth of negotiations Monday by finally putting up a fight. The NBPA was on the verge of agreeing to about $3 billion worth of economic givebacks, while system issues weighed heavily in the league's favor as owners attempted to hit a reset button after superstars such as LeBron James formed superpower teams last season.
Many expected the union to respond to Stern's latest ultimatum with a counterproposal that would continue talks and prevent the NBA from canceling more games. Instead, players did what owners have done since the lockout started July 1: go for the throat.
Now, neither side is backing down. And the 2011-12 clock continues to click.
"This is the best decision for the players," NBPA president Derek Fisher said. "I want to reiterate that point: that a lot of individual players have a lot of things personally at stake in terms of their careers and where they stand. And right now they feel it's important we all feel it's important to all our players, not just the ones in this room, but our entire group that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
P NBPA executive director Billy Hunter issued a disclaimer of interest Monday, dissolving the union in the fastest way possible. Attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and David Boies, who took opposite legal sides during the recent NFL lockout, will guide players in the courtroom and at the negotiating table if talks resume. An antitrust lawsuit bearing players' names is expected to soon be filed in a pro-union jurisdiction, likely the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. "We've got a stellar team," Hunter said. "And we're prepared to file this antitrust action against the NBA, because we think that's probably the best situation where the players can achieve their due process."