NEW YORK -- NBA owners will convene for a meeting of the full Board of Governors Saturday morning, hours before a critical bargaining session with the players' association, a person familiar with the meeting told CBSSports.com.
A representative from each team will attend the 10 a.m. meeting in Manhattan, setting the stage for a resumption of talks with the players at 4 p.m. that could determine if the 2011-12 season can be saved.
After about 50 players participated in a conference call Thursday with an antitrust attorney to discuss the possibility of involuntary decertification of the National Basketball Players Asssociation, league negotiators are facing intense pressure from hardliners in the ownership ranks. The New York Times reported Friday that Charlotte owner Michael Jordan is leading a group of 10-14 owners who are vowing to vote against any agreement that gives the players more than 50 percent of basketball-related income (BRI).
It was Jordan who, during the 1998-99 lockout, famously stood up in a bargaiing session and chastised late owner Abe Pollin when he told him that if he can't make a profit, he should sell his team. Now on the other side as an owner, Jordan is siding with a group of owners who do not want to negotiate beyond a 50-50 split -- even though the players already have agreed to shift $1.2 billion to the owners over six years. The $200 million-a-year reduction from their previous share of 57 percent addresses the majority of the $300 million the owners say they are losing annually.
UPDATE: But according to two people briefed on the decertification call, opinions among players participating varied on how valid an option it would be. Some players, such as Ray Allen, participated simply to become informed about the antitrust options at the players' disposal, one of the people said.
The stage is set for a powder keg atmosphere at Saturday's bargaining session in which owners could be even more dug in after losing a month of games. It also is possible that the owners' position could harden simply based on the fact that they do not want to be perceived as capitulating to the decertification threats, which have been organized behind the union leadership's back.
UPDATE: A source from each side said only the full bargaining committees are expected at the afternoon negotiating session, but the list of attendees is fluid and could change. But CBSSports.com learned that federal mediator George Cohen will, in fact, oversee Saturday's talks.