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Players begin process of re-forming their union

By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Nov 29 2011 6:21PM

Players' attorney Kessler optimistic on vote

NBA players have been mailed cards that will begin the process of re-forming their union, according to a source. Players have been asked to return the cards as soon as possible to expedite the potential reformation, which is necessary before the league and players can formally conclude negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The two sides settled their existing lawsuits against one another in Minnesota and New York last Saturday morning, paving the way to ending the 149-day lockout, which began July 1.

Players must indicate their preference to either re-form the National Basketball Players Association as their representative for collective bargaining purposes, or to reject the re-formation of the union. After they indicate their preference and sign the card, they are to scan the card and e-mail it to a neutral observer from the American Arbitration Association, who is acting as an election monitor and overseeing the process. The original card is to be mailed back to the offices of what was (and will likely be again) the Players Association in New York.

A simple majority of voting players, those who return the cards with the "yes" vote, would allow the union to re-form. Any player who was on an NBA roster last season, including players who were on two 10-day contracts, is eligible to vote. (Players who only received one 10-day contract from an NBA team are not eligible.) In addition, drafted rookies from this past June's Draft will also be eligible to vote.

Players are expected to vote yes and re-form the union. If that occurs, the re-formed union would then begin discussions with the NBA on the remaining items that were not addressed in Saturday's agreement, including several of the so-called "B List" issues that need to be answered.

However, a final decision on an age limit for the NBA Draft is not likely to be reached during these discussions. The current age limit for U.S. born players is 19, with at least one year of college basketball. It is believed the NBA is seeking a 20-year-old limit with at least two years of college basketball to be eligible for future Drafts.

Time is fleeting for all of this, with the NBA scheduled to re-open its doors for the start of training camp on Dec. 9, a week from Friday, the same day the league has said the free agent signing period will begin.

The start of the regular season is tentatively scheduled for Christmas Day. Several teams contacted Tuesday indicated they've received no guidance yet from the league on when they can resume contact with their players, or if there will be any kind of moratorium allowed before the 9th to allow teams to negotiate with prospective free agents.

This would be especially important for teams like the Nuggets, who currently only have seven players under contract. Three former Denver players -- J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin -- signed contracts with teams in China, which will not allow NBA players to return to the U.S. before the end of the Chinese Basketball Association season in early March of 2012.

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