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Michele Roberts: Players overwhelmingly oppose NBA’s Dec. 22 start plan

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts

NEWPORT BEACH, CA - OCTOBER 1: Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association Michele Roberts speaks on the Women in Leadership panel at the espnW Summit held at Resort at Pelican Hill on October 1, 2018 in Newport Beach, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

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The NBA wants to begin next season Dec. 22.

The league and union are currently negotiating. A Friday deadline for either side to terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement looms. So does the draft, free agency, training camp and everything else that must be completed before the season.

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, via Shams Charania of The Athletic:

“Given all that has to be resolved between now and a Dec. 22 date, factoring that there will be financial risks by a later start date, it defies common sense that it can all be done in time,” Roberts told The Athletic. “Our players deserve the right to have some runway so that they can plan for a start that soon. The overwhelming response from the players that I have received to this proposal has been negative.”
“The union and the players are analyzing all of the information and will not be rushed,” Roberts told The Athletic. “We have requested and are receiving data from the parties involved and will work on a counterproposal as expeditiously as possible. I have absolutely no reason to believe that we will have a decision by Friday. I cannot and will not view Friday as a drop dead date.”

After both sides projected cooperation for so long, this is the biggest sign of labor strife yet. A lockout or something similarly extreme isn’t necessarily imminent. But it’s at least possible to see how this could spiral.

There are also questions about how aligned players are. Though Roberts called it an “overwhelming response,” the union shouldn’t blindly be trusted to assess the desires of its members.

Some players, including stars, prefer to wait until Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18) to start next season. Players who played deep into the playoffs might want a longer break.

However, players on the eight teams not invited to Disney World have been idle a historically long time. With generally shorter careers and lower salaries, non-stars would be hit harder by a delay that reduces players’ salaries by a percentage.

Discussion of whether the union prioritizes stars could return to the forefront.

In the meantime, Dec. 22 approaches. As does the following season. The longer owners and players take coming to an agreement, the less time they’ll have to play basketball and make money.