Agent David Falk — at one time, arguably the most powerful man in professional basketball not named David Stern or Michael Jordan, warns the New York Times’ Howard Beck that upcoming labor negotiations between the NBA and the Players Association could be disastrous for the latter.  Given this is the man who brokered the deals that brought Shawn Bradley to the big screen in “Space Jam”, Falk knows a thing or two about a catastrophe.

The N.B.A.’s system is broken, Falk says, and fixing it will require radical measures that almost guarantee a standoff in 2011, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.

“I think it’s going to be very, very extreme, ” Falk said, “because I think that the times are extreme.”
How extreme? Falk said he believed Stern, the commissioner, would push for a hard salary cap, shorter contracts, a higher age limit on incoming players, elimination of the midlevel cap exception and an overall reduction in the players’ percentage of revenue. And, Falk said, Stern will probably get what he wants.

“The owners have the economic wherewithal to shut the thing down for two years, whatever it takes, to get a system that will work long term,” he said in an extensive interview to discuss his new book. “The players do not have the economic wherewithal to sit out one year.”

Falk despairs over the current state of the agent industry, saying “there’s rampant cheating going on” and “the quality of the representation is low.” He blames the union, which certifies agents but provides almost no oversight. A union spokesman declined to comment.

The players, he said, must recognize that the owners have the ultimate leverage. Many are billionaires for whom owning an N.B.A. team is merely a pricey hobby. Some of them are losing “enormous amounts of money” and would rather shut down the league for a year or two than continue with the current system.

So Falk is urging the union to take a more cooperative approach.

“And if we don’t do that, in my opinion, there’s an overwhelming probability that the owners will shut it down,”  he said.