Both sides were claiming victories of sort Wednesday in the legal battle between former National Basketball Players Association chief Billy Hunter and the union, including former president Derek Fisher.
A superior court judge in Los Angeles dismissed most of the claims made by Hunter against Fisher and his aide Jamie Wior (12 of 14, with two to be addressed in the coming days). But judge Huey Cotton ruled that Hunter’s breach-of-contract suit seeking $10 million from the union can continue. Hunter, the NBPA’s longtime executive director, claims he had a valid contract when he was terminated last February.
The crux of what remains centers around Hunter’s 2010 contract extension and whether it was properly ratified by the board of player representatives. The NBPA claims it was not and therefore was invalid, but Cotton did not rule on the union by-laws and how they pertain to contract extensions.
But what might matter most to anyone not directly involved, including NBA fans, is that the union’s search for Hunter’s replacement is moving slowly. According to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, NBA commissioner David Stern could be several months into his retirement and deputy Adam Silver well into his first year as Stern’s successor by the time the NBPA fills its leadership void:
Union officials are still interviewing candidates for Hunter’s successor as executive director. Contrary to a recent report, the union has not yet settled on a group of finalists, and the process could drag into the summer.
There isn’t anything as urgent as an expiring collective bargaining agreement in play, but a number of matters on which the league and the union hope to work together – such as enhancing the joint anti-drug policy to include testing for human growth hormone – have been on hold awaiting an NBPA hire. Guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers was elected union president, succeeding Fisher, at last year’s All-Star Weekend.
Hunter was dismissed amid accusations of nepotism and improper business dealings. That triggered his lawsuit, which Fisher’s and Wior’s attorney Andrew Kassof described as “retaliation” after Cotton’s ruling:
Hunter sued the NPBA, Fisher, its former president, and Wior last May, saying they conspired to undermine his authority during the 2011 lockout, and then have his employment terminated following the labor dispute.
“Today proved that Mr. Hunter’s claims continue to be both farfetched and offensive,” Kassof said.
But Hunter’s attorney David Anderson of Sidley Austin said Cotton’s decision supports Hunter’s claims that his contract was valid, reported CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger.
Cotton’s ruling is expected to lead to settlement talks between Hunter and the union, though a previous attempt at negotiations reportedly failed.