Players speak in ominous tones as deadline approaches

Derek Fisher stepped to the podium Tuesday afternoon with 42 players huddled behind him.

Basketball fans around the world were desperate to hear good news from the NBPA president in the wake of the league's latest ultimatum, giving the players until the end of business Wednesday to accept a deal on the table.

Instead they heard ominous tones.

"Our orders are clear. The current offer that is on the table from the NBA is not one we can accept," Fisher said. "Without further movement on system issues, I don't see a way we can get a deal done by Wednesday."

The NBA's latest proposal to the players included a split of basketball- related income between 49 and 51 percent, depending on revenue projections from the league.

"We made the proposal because we hope it will be accepted by Wednesday," NBA commissioner David Stern said over the weekend. "I'm not going to make percentage guesses or anything like that. We want our players to play and we'd like to have a season. These are the terms upon which we're prepared to gear up and get in as many games as possible."

It also came with a threat. Stern promised that the next proposal from the owners would be worse, a disaster for the players that would include 47 percent of BRI with a flex salary cap.

But Union president Billy Hunter intimated that the current stalemate is "about the system, not the BRI split." That said, Hunter also seemed to be poking the bear and not taking Stern's threats very seriously, believing a 50-50 split of BRI will linger.

Remember this is the third time that Stern has intimated that the NBA's "next offer" would be worse. He promised that on October 4 and again on October 28, yet the league actually improved things both times.

If the NBA holds true this time and scales back the offer, the players will likely have to use their only remaining tactic, decertification. At that point the courts will take over a process that could take months and almost certainly wipe out the entire 2011-12 season.

Hunter and Fisher, however, begged off talk of decertification.

"There was very little discussion about decertification," Hunter said.

"What we focused on is what we can control," Fisher added. "We can't control what NBA will do or what pro-decertifying players will do."

Asked what will happen on Wednesday, Hunter indicated that the NBA is prepared to cancel games through Christmas but that has not shaken his constituency.

In fact, it's now clear that the union regards this latest deadline as artificial and believes the NBA will return to the table with even more concessions.

Your move David Stern.