NEW ORLEANS – There were no figurative puffs of white smoke from the hotel ballroom where the NBA player-reps met Saturday. No resolution, then, to the union’s search to replace Billy Hunter – deposed a year ago at All-Star Weekend – as its executive director.
In contrast to that notable session in Houston last February, at which Hunter was fired amid conflict-of-interest and nepotism allegations, this year’s annual All-Star meeting was all about process. A process that is grinding on, with leadership of the National Basketball Players Association determined not to make a mistake.
Union president Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers informed reporters after the two-hour meeting that candidates for the job met Saturday with 30 player reps, along with interested All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Carmelo Anthony. Those who attended were filled in on the step-by-step procedure, from the search to identify the top prospects to the next step of disbursing a DVD of the meeting so the rank-and-file players can be briefed as well.
But the NBPA officers weren’t willing to provide candidates’ names, or their number, or any timeline for getting someone hired.
“To protect the integrity of the process and the privacy of our candidates,” Paul said before leaving with an All-Star obligation and turning the news conference over to first vice president Roger Mason Jr. and secretary-treasurer James Jones.
Mason said that more than 200 candidates were identified by Reilly Partners, the Chicago-based executive search firm hired by the NBPA in September. In the meantime, Attorney Ron Klempner is acting executive director.
A report this week by Yahoo! Sports cited anonymous sources when mentioning Screen Actors Guild executive director David White as “the frontrunner.” Previously, former Madison Square Garden chief Steve Mills was mentioned, until he signed on with the New York Knicks in September as president and general manager.
In lieu of specifics, the NBPA officers sketched out the qualities they’re seeking in whoever succeeds Hunter.
“First things first, we’re looking for a leader,” Mason said. “A leader with integrity, a leader who is bright and a leader who can manage talent. We’re not expecting someone to come in here and be a jack of all trades, be great at everything. We want someone who can come in and manage talent.
“Look there’s always a day for negotiations with the CBA. But for us now, it’s really about growing collectively the sport. Our union is a little different in that we should be thinking outside the box a little bit. So we definitely want a leader who can engage with [new NBA commissioner] Adam Silver. It’s not necessarily adversarial.”
Also on the short NBPA agenda Saturday was naming a replacement for San Antonio forward Matt Bonner, whose three-year term on the executive committee ended this weekend. That, too, is pending.
The union began its meeting with a video about the 1964 All-Star players who nearly boycotted the showcase game that year to get concessions from the owners and NBA hierarchy for the union. Their threat not to play that night, made from a locker room at Boston Garden, led to the players’ pension program and a real seat at the table in collective bargaining. Hall of Famer Bob Pettit, who lives in Baton Rouge, La., and was one of the participants in that protest, was introduced to today’s player reps.