Posts Tagged ‘Arn Tellem’

Union Chief Hunter Suggests Reforms To Thwart … His Past Abuses?

National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter, under fire from charges of nepotism and conflicts of interest in recent weeks, announced a series of “governance reforms” Wednesday to be presented to the union at All-Star Weekend.

The measures, as described in an NBPA release, seem designed to prevent the sort of abuses in which Hunter was found to have engaged in, according to an independent investigation commissioned by the players and released Jan. 17. That report led to a letter from Arn Tellem, one of sports’ top player agents, to his clients that was made public Tuesday and called for Hunter’s dismissal.

Hunter responded Tuesday, according to multiple media reports, by announcing the termination of his daughter and daughter-in-law from union-related positions and severing investment relations with Prim Capital, where his son was employed. The NBPA announcement one day later makes those moves official and recommends other policy changes.

Presumably, those will include greater oversight over NBPA contracts, since Hunter’s most recent extension — upping his annual salary to approximately $3 million — was alleged to have been reviewed only by one attorney, since deceased, without full approval of the executive committee.

The NBPA statement includes a summary of the controversy from Hunter:

“While the external report contains various recommendations in several key areas, it is incumbent upon the Executive Director, Executive Committee, and Player Representatives to ensure the smooth operation of the union. In my work for the NBPA, my priority has always been to promote the interests of the players.  Through the benefit of hindsight, as with any executive, there are always things that could have been done better, ” added Hunter.

It will be up to the league’s player reps, and overall union membership, at All-Star Weekend to decide if the moves are better late than never. Or more barn door closed after the horse is gone.

Union Chief Hunter Faces More Scrutiny, Acts On Nepotism Claim In Report

All-Star Weekend is the NBA’s de facto annual convention, a mostly happy mix of basketball, brand-building, show biz, sponsorships and celebration, with a little bit of league business thrown in. Things figure to be a little more heavy this year, however, from the players’ side.

The National Basketball Players Association will be faced with serious questions about executive director Billy Hunter’s fitness to continue in his current position, based on reports Tuesday by the New York Times and Bloomberg News. They represent the latest challenges to Hunter’s performance, coming in the wake of the Jan. 17 release of an independent law firm’s findings. That report, commissioned by the players, was strongly critical of the executive director’s business practices.

In the Times’ piece, Arn Tellem, one of the NBA’s most powerful player agents, called for Hunter’s removal and urged that they take action at All-Star Weekend in Houston. The paper obtained a copy of Tellem’s letter to his players.

“N.B.A. players deserve better representation from the union they fund,” Tellem writes in the letter. “I implore you and your fellow players to take control of your union and your future. It’s time for Mr. Hunter to go.”

Tellem suggests that players should make that decision when the players association holds its annual All-Star meeting on the weekend of Feb. 15 to 17. That is also when the players will discuss the recent audit, by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Representatives of the firm are expected to present the findings and answer questions.

In his letter, Tellem suggests that Hunter should not be allowed to attend that meeting to prevent him from any attempt “to intimidate and manipulate.” Tellem writes: “Hunter is betting that the players — historically passive — will let him slide. I hope you don’t. Clearly, Hunter has violated your trust.”

The Bloomberg story reported that Hunter dismissed family members from union roles after the Paul, Weiss report cited its findings of nepotism and conflict of interest  The moves were disclosed in a Jan. 23 letter Hunter wrote to a special committee of players.

The New York-based union paid almost $4.8 million to Hunter’s family members and their professional firms since 2001, according to public records. Hunter makes $3 million a year as union chief.

“Hopefully this decision will alleviate any concerns raised by their employment,” Hunter wrote in the letter. “These measures are being taken although the report noted that both of them were highly qualified, not overpaid, and were contributing members of the NBPA staff.”

Robyn Hunter, the director’s daughter, ceased working at the union on Jan. 25, according to the letter. Megan Inaba, his daughter-in-law and director of special events and sponsorships, will leave on Feb. 17 after the National Basketball Association’s All-Star weekend.

Hunter, 70, also secured a letter of resignation from Prim Capital, which employs his son, Todd.

Hunter, through union spokesman Dan Wasserman, declined to comment on the letter or his family’s employment changes.

The independent report of two weeks ago focused on Hunter’s ethics and raised questions about the approval process for his current five-year contract as director, worth approximately $15 million. Tellem’s letter was highly critical of Hunter’s performance in leading NBA players through the 2011-12 lockout.

Tellem was one of six agents who, at the height of tensions during the dispute, called for the union to decertify, which would have removed him as a principal in the process. He resisted, only later accepting the players’ strategy to file a “disclaimer of interest” as a less strident – and perhaps less effective – alternative.

More from the Times story:

Tellem devotes a major portion of his letter to criticizing Hunter’s handling of the lockout, saying that the union chief was “tactically, strategically and logistically unprepared” and that Commissioner David Stern “outmaneuvered Mr. Hunter from the get-go.” The decision to reject decertification, Tellem writes, showed that Hunter was “more concerned with saving his job and salary than in making the best deal for the players.”

The procedure for firing Hunter is not entirely clear, although it would presumably begin with the 60 or so player representatives (two from each team). The union also has a nine-player executive board, but that board has seven vacancies because of the union’s failure to hold an election within the last year. An election is scheduled for All-Star weekend.

Last year at this time, parties on both sides – owners and players – were happy just to have salvaged a season that could include a 2012 All-Star Weekend. The 2013 edition figures to be a lot more work and a little more heated.

Labor Talks: Time To Make A Move

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a hard time keeping up. Most of us are in the same spot, trying to figure out who is for what as the clock ticks down to the league’s 5 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline for the players to either take or dismiss the league’s 50-50 proposal.

Some players are all for making a deal, as Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports:

“We need for the two sides to get together again before Wednesday, because we’re too close to getting a deal done,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “We need to iron out the last system items and save this from spiraling into a nuclear winter.”

Some others are not. Some of the owners are for it and apparently, per ESPN.com‘s sources, some others are not. It’s high time someone made a move, the right move to get the 2011-12 season up and running.

But when the sides can’t come to a consensus within their own caucuses, it’s tough to see some sort of breakthrough if and when the sides come together again to try and hash out the final details of a new collective bargaining agreement.

With the union representatives from all 30 teams set to meet today in New York, in advance of Wednesday’s end-of-business deadline, plenty of observers are a little nervous about what type of movement could emerge from the gathering. The players have limited options at this point. They can take a vote on the proposal and decide to take the deal, bowing to the league’s “ultimatum,” as union president Derek Fisher called it over the weekend, and breathe life into a season and the NBA fan base. Or they can refuse to even consider it, as Fisher insisted in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s bargaining session, and push this affair into an even darker corner.

Fair or not, the players will own the next 36 hours of this mess.

(more…)

Labor Talks: Here We Go Again

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Did you wake up this morning wondering what the first weekend of November has in store for you, NBA fans?

Let us help.

How about another round of “talks,” perhaps even another round of hollow smiles and more posturing about deadlines that move at the whim of the men on both sides of the league’s labor dispute and even a scare tactic or two that threatens to cost us the entire 2011-12 season?

We completely understand if lockout fatigue syndrome is full-blown in your household. It’s choking the life out of things here at the hideout, where every breaking news blast is met with a raised eyebrow and questions about who might be pulling the strings on this latest stunt (the dissolution of the union is coming back to the forefront now).

(SI.com and NBA TV’s legal analyst Michael McCann details all of the particulars for you!)

They’ve met in small groups, larger groups and committees. There have been conference calls, secret ones and not-so-secret alike, news conferences and now threats of the union decertifying and still no sign of the one thing we need … a new collective bargaining agreement!

Substantive talks are one thing and we’d welcome anything in that neighborhood going on this weekend.

But showing up to a Manhattan hotel and sticking around just long enough to tell each other that nothing has changed is not what we’d consider progress.

And we’re not the only ones exhausted by the process …

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Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe captures the mood of many with his column that places the current state of affairs in the proper historical context:

It is very annoying for those of us who still love the sport of professional basketball to see what its custodians are currently doing to harm it. I wish it were as easy to decipher as the NFL madness. It was pretty easy to outfit the combatants in that one.

White Hats: Players

Black Hats: Owners

The NFL lockout was about very rich guys, all making a profit from their teams, wanting more. The players asked for nothing. Status quo was fine with them. There was a $9 billion pie, and there was ample opportunity for everyone to get a nice slice.

The NBA pie is worth “only’’ approximately $4 billion, and, unlike the NFL, not everyone makes a profit. That is clear. But just who is losing what remains unclear, because history teaches us that in these matters, professional sports teams make statements concerning their finances that, while perhaps not outright lies, are, shall we say, substantial stretches of the truth. Make that enormous, stupendous, astonishing stretches of the truth.

Labor Talks: Tick Tock, Tick Tock …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve all known for a while now that the first week of October would serve as a crucial week in these NBA labor talks.

No progress before then and the opening days of this month could be a make-or-break time for both sides, not to mention the millions of us around the world biting our nails hoping that our first love (the NBA) would come back to us … and soon.

It’s hard to categorize the things that have gone on in recent days as true progress. Sure, there have been meetings. Ideas have been exchanged. But no one is talking in a way that suggests that even the loose framework of a deal is under way.

And now comes this crossroads moment, a “very huge day,” according to the words used by union president Derek Fisher in characterizing today’s session.

We won’t know exactly what that means until the sides emerge from that meeting room in New York and explain themselves after yet another day of exhausting conversation about how to close the gap between what the owners want and the players are willing to give.

But if the developments of the past 24 hours are any indication, everyone seems to be digging in and the clock continues to tick …

Agents Urge Players To Stay Strong

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: In a letter to their clients, Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), Dan Fegan (Lagardère Unlimited), Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports Management), Leon Rose and Henry Thomas (Creative Artists Agency) and Mark Bartelstein (Priority Sports and Entertainment), outlined what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable going into the biggest day of negotiating yet.

Here are some of the notable demands in the letter, which was obtained by SI.com from a player: (Click here for the full letter in PDF):

• With the National Basketball Players’ Association having already offered to drop the players’ portion of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 52 percent, the agents implore players to insist on “no further reduction of the BRI received by the players. A source close to the union told SI.com recently that any agreed-upon deal in which the players received 51 percent could possibly be ratified but would likely lead to the ousting of Billy Hunter as the NBPA’s executive director, so this is in line with those parameters.

• A system in which the current structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions remains the same.

• No reduction in salary from existing levels for maximum contract players.

• No changes in unrestricted free agency and improvements on restricted free agency.

• “Refuse any deal that excludes players from the explosive growth of the NBA.” Owners’ proposals that have started with players receiving 46 percent of the BRI have included drastic declines in their percentage of the pie in the later years of the agreement.

(more…)

Labor: Where Do We Go From Here?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Stunning is the only way to describe the mood shift here at the hideout in the past 24 hours.

From giddy anticipation for potential progress that could come from the first full bargaining session since the lockout began to the depths of despair in the aftermath of said meeting producing nothing of the sort. I tried to warn folks. No deal would be struck. The two sides were probably not going to move off of their initial positions. They did not.

The owners and players (and their representatives) are as far apart right now as they were when this entire ordeal began. It’s as if the calendar hasn’t moved one bit since July 1.

NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter might even agree on that. There is no next bargaining session scheduled. Not even a brief get together for coffee. Nothing.

The labor talks have “Hit a wall,” as our very own Steve Aschburner points out, but he is not the only one shining a light on the hard cap vs. soft cap debate that seems be at the center of the impasse (this week).

You can choose sides all you want, but as far as these eyes can see the only real losers in this entire affair are those of us who love the game and want to see it played as soon as possible.

Still, we have to gauge the reactions from all sides and examine the fine points of each and every argument. More importantly, we have to sort through the rubble now and figure out exactly where we go from here. Because optimism is no longer a part of this equation …

The Union’s Next Test … Decertification

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: When [Hunter] goes to Las Vegas on Wednesday for the most important players meeting of his tenure as executive director, does he find a coup awaiting him?

“Now Billy has to go to Las Vegas with nothing to bring the players,” a prominent agent told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night.

“He’s chosen a particular path, and there hasn’t been any progress on that path. There was all this false optimism in the last week about how the league was going to come with a new proposal that he could take back to the players, and they came with nothing. Stern wants to stall, and stall until the players start missing paychecks.

“Billy was hoping that he could keep the players engaged, excited that a deal was coming. There was all that rhetoric of good feelings, and today was the day that Stern was going to come with a proposal. He was relying on the fact that Stern would negotiate in good faith with him, that he didn’t want to lose games. He thought that Stern would blink, start to negotiate. He was relying on the fact Stern didn’t want to hurt the game, and he was wrong.”

Yes, there had to be a pit in Hunter’s stomach. Three hours waiting for the owners to debate among themselves, big markets wanting to cut a deal, and small markets willing to lose games – lose the season – to get guaranteed profits and maybe a better chance to chase championships.

There’s a big labor meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, and Hunter is competing for the hearts and minds of his rank-and-file players. He’s already lost the top agents, who are laying the groundwork for a coup, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The decision to make a move on Hunter could come as soon as this week, agents privately said.

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Memphis holding out on rookies

Remember the rookie holdout? Remember when the likes of Jim Jackson, Billy Owens and Glenn Robinson refused to ink that first NBA contract until they squeezed every nickel possible out of their teams?

Robinson was essentially the last of that breed when the Big Dog attempted to highjack Milwaukee for $100 million in 1994. Those days went the way of the underhanded free throw the following year with the implementation of the rookie salary scale.

The scale has undergone modifications over the years, but the essence remains the same. Rookies know almost to the penny what they’re going to get based on Draft position. It pretty much eliminates the guesswork of negotiations, making sure those NBA neophytes are signed and sealed long before training camp.

That brings Hang Time to the curious cases of Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez, Memphis’ two unsigned first-round picks. The two guards, taken 12th and 28th, have yet to come to terms in an almost unprecedented display of hardball.

But instead of the players holding out for better deals, the Grizzlies are standing firm. The rookie salary scale allows each pick to sign for up to 120 percent of their slot figure. In the case of Henry, the slot is $1.68 million for this year. The starting amount for Vasquez is $863,000.

Most teams usually just go with the 120 percent figure and wrap up a contract. The Grizz aren’t opposed to going there, they just aren’t guaranteeing it. Memphis wants that last 20 percent to be tied to performance bonuses, such as playing 70 games and averaging 15 minutes for Henry.

The contract dispute has put the sharp-shooter out of Kansas behind in his early preparation for this summer, as Henry didn’t take part in Summer League. Still, about six weeks remain before training camp. Vasquez did play on the Grizzlies’ summer squad.

Henry’s agent Arn Tellem isn’t too thrilled with Memphis’ stance. Tellem told the Associated Press that only one player out of 450 drafted since the rookie scale began 15 years ago has agreed to performance bonuses. The Grizzlies apparently want to triple that figure.

“Basic fairness and equality are fundamental aspects of every positive organization-player relationship, and those concepts are totally absent from the Grizzlies’ current proposal to Xavier,” Tellem said.

Sounds like some good ole fashioned negotiating. We just don’t see it with rookies anymore. The Big Dog can relate.

Johnson Back In Hawks’ Fold

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Joe Johnson’s No. 2 Hawks jersey won’t be going anywhere now that he has agreed to stick around for a few more years, accepting the six-year, $119 million deal offered on July 1.

What’s been at issue, mostly for Hawks fans, is what else the team will be able to do with him on a maximum contract.

If you listen to Johnson’s agent, Arn Tellem, there’s quite a bit more in store. In Tellem’s blog on the Huffington Post, he sheds some interesting light on Johnson’s decade-old journey through the league, the run-up to and through free agency and a potential target named [LeBron] James.

Someone’s probably going to end up with a tampering fine somewhere …oh, that’s right, we can all speak freely now:

Before becoming a free agent, Joe focused on the Hawks, the Bulls and the Knicks. Chicago offered him a chance to play with the brilliant point guard Derrick Rose and a tough young center, Joakim Noah. A further incentive: the roster included Joe’s great friend Jannero Pargo, one of his college teammates. New York has Mike D’Antoni, the coach who nurtured Joe in Phoenix. Joe loved playing for D’Antoni and was excited by the possibility of joining him in New York. It seemed like a perfect match: a tenacious player who never naps oncourt in the city that never sleeps.

When the free-agency period kicked in, Joe made a point of talking to the Hawks first. Their owners and new coach, Larry Drew, impressed Joe with their commitment to making the team championship-caliber. In turn, Joe felt equally committed to the Hawks, his teammates and the city of Atlanta.

With all his success, Joe remains as grounded as he was a decade ago at our first meeting in Little Rock. His priorities are his family, his friends and his game. Joe could have forced a sign-and-trade deal for five years with another team, but he decided that winning in Atlanta would be more meaningful. When the Hawks offered the maximum — six years — he happily reciprocated.

For his next act, Joe plans to actively recruit other top free agents to Atlanta, a place not unlike his hometown, where he feels comfortable and appreciated.

LeBron, you’ve already met with the front offices of six teams. How about considering the Hawks?

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Another Player For Johnson

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Dallas Mavericks remain the one team that few people outside of the Metroplex are willing to factor into this free agent frenzy as a legitimate contender for one of the top names.

That doesn’t include Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, whose sources say the Mavericks are prepared to pursue Hawks-free-agent-to-be and All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson.

Wojnarowski is one of the very best in the business, so his reports should not be treated with the same dismissive tone that we normally condone of these sorts of reports:

Johnson was raised in Arkansas and has a comfort level living in the Southwest. Johnson, 28, is facing the final major contract of his career, and sources believe he’s far less likely to sign with a team under the cap and cost himself millions than having his agent Arn Tellem aggressively pursue a sign-and-trade. Johnson is determined to get the sixth guaranteed season on a contract that could only come with re-signing in Atlanta or a sign-and-trade arrangement, sources say.

The Mavericks have a pool of talent that could entice Atlanta general manager Rick Sund into making a deal for Johnson. The Mavericks believe they’ll re-sign Dirk Nowitzki, who is expected to opt-out of his contract. They’re intrigued with a lineup that would include Johnson as the shooting guard.

The Hawks are still expected to try and sign Johnson, but sources don’t believe they’ll offer a maximum contract to him.

Having my own history with Johnson and having spoken to someone with knowledge of his thought process at this time, Johnson is not ruling out any of his free agent options, and that includes any and all sign-and-trade scenarios.

He’s well aware of the position of power he has right now, relatively speaking, of course (since pretty much the entire basketball world revolves around LeBron James until he makes his decision).

The Mavericks would present an interesting option for both Johnson and his would-be-former team if someone like Caron Butler was included in a hypothetical sign-and-trade deal.

I’ve yet to get a concrete confirmation that Johnson indeed is ready to get out of town. The Hawks still have the best shot (and the most money to offer) to keep Johnson.

But it’s clear he’s become the object of several team’s affection, particularly the ones that realize that James could very well be out of their reach.

The Hawks can end this drama with maximum contract offer of their own, and despite suggestions to the contrary, HT sources have indicated that there have been internal discussions about doing exactly that.

Bottom line, their actions seconds after midnight on Wednesday will tell us just how sincere they are about keeping Johnson.

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