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NBA players sue league as more games cancelled

/ 12:25 PM November 16, 2011

LOS ANGELES, California — As another fortnight of games disappeared from the NBA calendar on Tuesday, NBA players filed an antitrust complaint against the league in a Minnesota court and said more cases would follow.

Billy Hunter, Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association. AFP PHOTO

Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association Billy Hunter. AFP PHOTO

As of Tuesday evening, NBA.com‘s schedule for the 2011-2012 season showed the first games set for December 15 — representing two more weeks of cancelled contests after the labor dispute wiped out all scheduled match-ups in November.

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ESPN reported that teams were formally notified of the cancellations by the league on Tuesday.

The move was expected after players on Monday rejected the owners’ latest proposal for a deal and instead opted to dissolve their union and pursue legal action against the league.

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Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver, Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon, free agent forward Caron Butler and Derrick Williams — drafted by the Timberwolves in June but yet to sign a contract — were listed as plaintiffs in the Minnesota case.

The executive director of the NBA Players Association, Billy Hunter, said another complaint would be filed in the Northern District of California with other players as the plaintiffs.

According to the complaint filed in Minnesota, the players’ class-action lawsuit has been divided into “subclasses” because of the number of those represented and the fact that they are so spread around the country.

The plaintiffs claim that the lockout of players by owners that began on July 1 “constitutes an illegal group boycott, price-fixing agreement, and/or restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Act” and that the owners’ last take-it-or-leave-it contract proposal would have “wiped out the competitive market for most NBA players.”

David Boies, a lawyer for the players, said the suit was a bid to restore competitive free-market conditions.

“We hope it’s not necessary to go to trial,” said Boies, who added that it was in “everybody’s interests to resolve this promptly.

“The longer it goes on, the greater the damages teams will face,” added Boies, who was speaking in New York.

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Owners and players have been unable to agree on several financial issues, including the division of some $4 billion in annual revenue.

Players received 57 percent of basketball-related income under the previous contract. The owners had offered a 50-50 split, but Stern has said that any future offers would be less favorable to players and that owners would also seek a hard ceiling to the salary cap as well as salary rollbacks.

Billionaire owners say such changes are needed because 22 of 30 clubs lost money last season. The players’ decision to leave the bargaining table and head to court further threatened the season, Stern said.

“The NBA has negotiated in good faith throughout the collective bargaining process,” Stern said in a statement on Monday. “There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy.”

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