Clippers guard Chris Paul was elected president of the National Basketball Players Assn. on Wednesday as an important step, and an unexpected dose of name recognition, in the union’s attempt to find stability after more than a year of public infighting.
The outcome, part of the NBPA summer meeting in Las Vegas, was a surprise after reports portrayed Roger Mason Jr., a free agent who played with New Orleans last season, as the only declared candidate and likely winner. Instead, Paul became the rarity of a star atop the organization, the first since Patrick Ewing ended his term in 2001, and the most-visible face of the organization entangled by the controversy that led to lawsuits and executive director Billy Hunter being fired in February.
Paul said he has been thinking about running for a while and talked to members about the executive committee, including Mason, about a possible candidacy. The priority, his said on a conference call shortly after the election, is to get more players involved in the union.
“Right now is a big time for us as players and our union and moving forward,” Paul said. “I think I have a lot of experience in being around and knowing what’s going on. The other thing is, moving forward, the union is not about me. It’s not about the president or the first vice president or any one person. It’s about the players as a whole, as a body. That’s what we got out of the past two days in our meetings, what we can do moving forward to grow the game and build the game.
“Obviously, we’re restructuring a few things, just trying to make sure everything is set up properly. Everything is about checks and balances. I think we’ve got to give a lot of credit to the staff at the players’ association. They’ve been through a lot over the past year or so. It’s going to take a lot of work. But like I said, we have an outstanding executive committee, a great group of guys, board of directors, who are going to be ready and excited to move forward.”
Mason was elected first vice president Wednesday, replacing Jerry Stackhouse, who resigned and, according to the NBPA, is expected to take a new internal role. Additionally, Steve Blake of the Lakers and Anthony Tolliver of the Bobcats were elected vice presidents, filling the spots vacated by Paul and Mason.
“For me personally, I believe the union’s in a great place right now, especially after the past two days,” Paul said. “Obviously there were ideas and brainstorming and things like that, and right now it’s our job – the committee and the staff and myself – to move forward. No one said it was going to be easy, but that’s why we’re in this position. Stackhouse and the other guys, Roger Mason the first vice president, and the executive committee, we’re excited about the road ahead.”
Hunter was ousted amid evidence of mismanagement, including conflicts of interest in deals between his family members and the union. He then sued Derek Fisher, Paul’s predecessor as president, and the NBPA for defamation and breach of contract. A hearing on a motion to dismiss the case is pending.
Meanwhile, the union is without a permanent executive director to run the day-to-day operations. The search firm looking for Hunter’s replacement gave an update in Las Vegas, followed by Paul saying, “For us, there’s obviously no rush. Obviously we would love to get someone in that seat. But for us, we think we want to make sure our house is in order and make sure we have everything is in the right place so that executive director can come right in and can hit the ground running.”
Said Adam Silver, the NBA’s deputy commissioner: “Chris is an All-Star player and person and we look forward to working with him.”