Posts Tagged ‘NBPA’

Fisher’s union role helped prepare him for Knicks head coaching job


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses reports of the Knicks hiring Derek Fisher

Most people, when they hear the news about Derek Fisher becoming the head coach of the New York Knicks, think of the veteran NBA point guard, the longtime Los Angeles Lakers role player who entered the league with Kobe Bryant in the 1996 Draft but was an adult, and ageless, from start to finish in his 18-year career.

Me, I found myself thinking of a different Fisher as multiple outlets reported his hiring as Knicks coach by Phil Jackson, New York’s ballyhooed new basketball boss, and Fisher’s old Lakers coach.

I thought of Fisher, the union president who helped navigate the National Basketball Players Association through the divisive 2011 labor lockout.

That’s where Fisher might have an edge over other former players who were hired with no prior coaching experience.

What Fisher had to do as union prez sure seemed a lot like coaching to me, at least in the skill set required.

Leadership? Check.

Weighing the demands of various constituencies, each with its own agenda? Check.

Keeping the guys who dislike you away from the guys, as MLB’s Billy Martin used to say, who haven’t quite made up their minds? Check.

Staying true to your own vision, knowing when to bend and when to stiffen? Check.

Dealing with the media and looking good in a suit? Check and double-check.

We never saw Jason Kidd, Steve Kerr, Mark Jackson or other recent NBA coaching neophytes – no assistant’s apprenticeship or D League prep work required — handle chores as complex and urgent as Fisher did during the lockout. He coped with the owners on one side, his peers in the players union on another, the NBA brass – commissioner David Stern and deputy Adam Silver – on yet another side and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter (with his own undisclosed agendas at the time, as it turned out) on another side still.

Fisher, 39, would navigate it all and generally find the right tone by the end of that day’s negotiating session. Sometimes conciliatory and optimistic, sometimes steely and primed for battle.

Granted, it’s only a sliver of what might be required of Fisher as a head coach. Coping with LeBron James or Kevin Durant, breaking down video to solve the game’s best pick-and-roll practitioners, attacking Tom Thibodeau’s or Frank Vogel‘s defense, pushing buttons to get Carmelo Anthony‘s very best, avoiding an aneurysm while dealing with J.R. Smith – Fisher faces some mighty challenges in his new job, union resume or not.

He’ll also have to deal with the Knicks’ internal dynamic of being Jackson’s “guy,” of being second whenever there is credit to be ladled out – Jackson is the big brain of the operation, we’ve all been told – but first when it’s time to blame (darn rookie coach).

But Fisher stood strong when things swirled about him over the second half of 2011, getting invaluable experience in all those hotel ballrooms, dealing with egos every bit as sizable as those he’ll encounter in the Knicks locker room. And executive suite.

The man has no slot in the back of his shirts and suit coats where Jackson will be able to slip a hand and run him, puppet-like. The Knicks aren’t just hiring a surrogate, they’re hiring a legit first-time coach, a potentially inspired choice

Morning Shootaround — March 15


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

A “defining moment” for the Heat | Warriors talk it out | Lillard becomes a leader | Beal goes down in Wizards’ win | Lakers can move on without Jackson

No. 1: A “defining moment” for the Heat — When they won their first six games after the All-Star break, we thought the Miami Heat had flipped the switch in preparation for the playoffs. But they’ve since lost five of their last six, falling to the below-.500 Denver Nuggets at home on Friday. There’s still a month left in the regular season, but LeBron James believes this is a “defining moment” for the champs, as Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald writes:

This shrine of basketball on Biscayne Bay hasn’t known tedium for some time, but a little bit of that stuff has crept into the cracks of the hardwood in recent days. The Heat (44-19) has lost five of its past six games and is 3-5 in March.

“A tough loss at home, and we just have to figure it out,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s not the way this streak started. Sometimes, it just happens to you in this league where things turn and moment changes and you find yourself in a hole you feel like you can’t get out of. Obviously, we’ll be able to get out of it. When? We don’t know.”

Said James: “We’ve been here before. It has been a while, but we’ve been here before, and this moment will either define our season or end our season. … We always have one defining moment, and this is it right here for us.”

***

No. 2: Warriors talk it out — The Heat weren’t the only good team to suffer an embarrassing loss at home on Friday. The Golden State Warriors gave up 68 points across the second and third quarters in a 103-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s not acceptable for a team that has mostly won with defense this season. So the Dubs aired it out in a post-game meeting, as Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News writes:

Mark Jackson took extra, extra time to come out to speak to the media and spoke about as harshly as he has allowed himself to during his Warriors tenure–so the mood was clearly a little different.

Why? This season has been built on defense, and the Warriors built a huge early lead and then got shredded by a bad Cleveland team, which is just about what Jackson said.

Then, after Jackson’s presser, maybe 30 minutes after the game ended, the locker room was opened to the media and players were noticeably still talking to each other – not at all heatedly, but with nods and solemn expressions.

One player stood out – Stephen Curry was still in uniform and walked up to Jermaine O’Neal, Andrew Bogut and David Lee (among others) and had long one-on-one discussions in the locker room corridors.

***

No. 3: Lillard becomes a leader — Speaking of locker room meetings, the Blazers had one after Wednesday’s loss in San Antonio, their fourth straight. And it started with Damian Lillard, who doesn’t want to settle for having just played hard. He wants results and Jason Quick of The Oregonian writes that the point guard’s speech may have been a turning point for the Blazers:

“Hold on,” Lillard said.

And from there, a passionate, pointed and spontaneous flow of emotions and leadership came from Lillard. His interjection, and subsequent soliloquy, sparked a team meeting. The players and coaches want the details of the meeting to stay in house, but Lillard said the essence of his speech was that it was up to the players, not the coaches, to step up in crunch time, and to not accept the “we competed hard” as a pacifier for losing.

“He took control,” said Dorell Wright, who is in his 10th NBA season. “It was a big step for him.”

Added Wesley Matthews: “It showed he’s grown. He’s one of those guys who has always led by example, and he put it on himself. He was tired of losing so he voiced his opinion. It was good.”

***

No. 4: Beal goes down in Wizards’ win — The Washington Wizards came back from six down in the final 65 seconds of regulation to win in Orlando on Friday. But Bradley Beal turned his right ankle in overtime, meaning that the win may cost the Wizards in the long run. They play a big game against the Nets – with whom they’re tied in the standings – in Washington on Saturday. Michael Lee of the Washington Post had the story from Orlando:

The night didn’t end without a brief scare. On the next possession, Beal forced rookie Victor Oladipo (15 points) into missing a driving layup and rolled his right ankle when he landed. Beal hit the floor, weeping in the hardwood, thinking that he had broken his ankle, as his concerned teammates gathered around him. Kevin Seraphin and Otto Porter Jr. eventually had to carry Beal to the locker room but he walked out of the arena on his own power.

“I was just hoping it wasn’t broken. That’s always a player’s first instinct — hope and pray it’s nothing too too serious and fortunately, it was only a sprain,” Beal said. “We just keep going, keep attacking. You’re not always going to stay hot all the time. You’re not going to make all your shots. For us to get this win up underneath us is a great feeling.”

***

No. 5: Lakers can move on without Jackson — It’s been almost three years since Phil Jackson left the Los Angeles Lakers, but only now can the franchise finally have some closure. Lakers fans may still want Phil, but he was never going to get what he wanted (full control) in L.A. Ramona Shelburne has a good read on the Jackson story from the Lakers’ perspective:

Over the past three years, he’s been neither coach nor consultant. His fiancée, Jeanie Buss, is the one still receiving Laker paychecks, not him. But in his absence, Jackson’s presence has only grown larger among the Lakers and their fans. By remaining in the shadows, his enormous shadow has hung over the franchise. The “We want Phil” chants still ring out at Staples Center from time to time.

People got used to it that way. It was comforting to know Jackson was still there, close by. Just a tweet away. That also made it hard for other things to grow, but it was better than the alternative.

When legendary owner Dr. Jerry Buss passed away last February, Jackson was still the one subsuming that patriarchal role in this very strange, dysfunctional saga. The Lakers and their fans never really had to stare into the abyss in front of them.

Now they do. That it took a full week for Jackson to formally sign on as the Knicks president after word of their serious mutual interest leaked only prolonged the torture for Laker fans.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: In a response to an Op-Ed by agent Jeff Schwartz, Chris Paul detailed the NBPA’s search for a new executive director … In an up-and-down season, Jonas Valanciunas had a big night against the Grizzlies … Nikola Pekovic couldn’t play through ankle pain on FridayThe Nets have signed Jason Collins for the remainder of the season … and O.J. Mayo is out of the Bucks’ rotation.

ICYMI of The Night: Lillard backed up his words, scoring 27 points (including 16 in the fourth quarter) in Friday’s win in New Orleans:


VIDEO: Nightly Notable: Damian Lillard

Hunter’s Lawsuit Vs. Union To Continue, While His Job Remains Vacant

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.

Big O: LeBron Would ‘Excel’ As NBPA Prez

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LeBron James is said to be “mulling” making a bid for the presidency of the NBA players association.

Oscar Robertson held that post longer than any NBA player in history.

To this day, Robertson remains the biggest name to have served his fellow players in that capacity. And as one of the game’s true Olympian figures, Robertson cannot imagine a better candidate than James, who is on his way to similar heights.

“Yeah, he’d have to think about it — I think he would have an excellent situation,” Robertson said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “I think if he was president of the players [union], he would excel like he does on the basketball court. I guess, maybe now with all the advice and the consultants and things, it would be a different situation.”

Robertson, the NBA’s legendary “Big O” during his Hall of Fame career in Cincinnati and Milwaukee, served as president of the National Basketball Players Association from 1965 to his retirement in 1974. Those were some of the league’s, and the union’s, most tumultuous years, when the two sides hammered out the makings of today’s so-called “player-owner partnership” mostly by colliding repeatedly into each other.

Big O key in early labor battles

Organized by Celtics great Bob Cousy in 1954 and further established by his Boston teammate Tom Heinsohn from 1958-65, the union in 1965 still was fighting for what now would be considered bare essentials: pay for preseason games, better medical care, the concept of an All-Star “break,” modest bumps in meal money and pensions, and a boost in the minimum player salary — out of FOUR figures. All of the strategies and jargon that were in play during the 2011 lockout, like cancelled games and filings with the National Labor Relations Board? Those were in play in the 1960s, too, when the NBPA’s power base was a lot more tenuous.

“Actually, I was naïve when I started,” Robertson said. “I didn’t know anything about it.  Sometimes it’s fate, what happens. So I just got involved. I didn’t know anything about the union whatsoever — I knew what it was because I was in it, but as far as how to run it, it was on-the-job training for me.”

The American Basketball Association (ABA) sprang up in 1967, exacerbating tensions between the NBA’s owners and the players. By 1970, with salaries bid ever higher and the two leagues in merger negotiations, the union filed an antitrust lawsuit to block such a move, given its impact on their employment and freedoms. The players sought to abolish the college draft and the option clause in standard contracts that bound them to their teams in perpetuity. Acrimony spiked, and a lawsuit in the matter soon became known for the union president’s name attached to it: the Oscar Robertson suit.

“I’m glad that I was a star,” Robertson recalled Thursday. “Because if I was a mediocre player, I wouldn’t have lasted very long. Because in those days, the league hated you as a player rep and they wanted to get rid of you.”

Robertson, now 74, wasn’t just a star. He was the LeBron James of his day (or vice versa). Many people know of him as the master of the triple-double — in 1961-62, he famously averaged at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for an entire season. What too many neglect, of course, is that Robertson averaged 30.8 points along with those 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists.

Even fewer realize that the 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard averaged a triple-double over his first five seasons in the league: 30.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 10.6 apg in 384 appearances from 1960-61 through 1964-65.

Robertson’s game gave him a voice, not unlike James in Houston at All-Star weekend in February. On that Saturday, at the union’s membership meeting at the Hilton, James commanded the room by probing and leading the discussion of NBPA executive director Billy Hunter’s job performance and ethics, outgoing president Derek Fisher’s role, the members of the union’s executive committee and the very future of the association.

James and veteran Jerry Stackhouse, through their comments, questions and actions that afternoon, reportedly imposed order on a group spinning out of control. Stackhouse, who recently told FoxSports.com that the union hopes to name a replacement for Hunter (and acting director Ron Klempner) sometime after Christmas, isn’t expected to be active as a player this season.

But James’ star power as a possible NBPA president could boost the union’s credibility and impact.

Stars have tradition of taking NBPA spotlight

The star-driven NBA has had, for more than a decade, a union driven by role players. What Cousy, Heinsohn and Robertson began, others such as Bob Lanier, Isiah Thomas and Patrick Ewing continued. But since 2001, Michael Curry (2001-05), Antonio Davis (2005-06) and Fisher (2006-present) have headed the NBPA.

Through the union’s first 47 years, 10 players served as president; seven wound up in the Hall of Fame and the 10 combined for 75 All-Star selections. In the past 13 years, Davis’ 2001 All-Star appearance stands alone. None of the last three presidents is headed to Springfield.

That didn’t preclude them from being effective — Fisher worked tirelessly and often thanklessly through the prickly lockout two years ago. But the clout that comes with star status — James has two NBA titles with the Heat, four MVPs, Olympic gold and more — can help immensely, Robertson said.

“I felt I commanded a lot of respect from a lot of different ball players, when you say something to the guys,” Robertson said. “And if you’re friendly with ‘em, other than playing basketball, it will help also.”

Finding NBA stars willing to take on the role, while sacrificing time and outside earning opportunities, has gotten more difficult. Robertson thinks it has something to do with the stakes these days.

“That’s always been [an apathy] problem with some guys,” he said. “But you look at it over the years, with all of the problems they’ve had, a lot of players because they’re making money, they just don’t get involved. They don’t need to — it might hurt you selling a pair of shoes or a headband or something.”

Robertson: NBPA prez a job of ‘sacrifice’

People can debate the merits of a union president who dominates All-NBA teams vs. one who relates (and earns similarly) to the league’s middle class. Either version will wind up logging long hours. “There’s no doubt about it, it’s a sacrifice,” Robertson said. “Especially if you do a good job. If you do the job [the way] they’re going to have confidence in you, sometimes it gets a little lonely. Until something happens.

“I didn’t think about whether it was hard or not [to make time]. It was an opportunity. There was an awful lot going on when I was with the players association, a lot of changes that needed to be done. Some we did right, some we didn’t.”

Robertson is proud of the gains achieved by the NBPA during his tenure. The Robertson lawsuit triggered negotiations that led to free agency, as well as a settlement that paid more than $4 million to then-current players and another $1 million in union legal fees. Pensions improved and the minimum salary tripled on his watch.

Only a handful of his peers or players since have thanked him for his service, Robertson said (“But I didn’t do it for that anyway”). He also said he paid a professional price. Robertson was dropped after one season as color analyst on the NBA’s network telecasts because, legend has it, some owners bristled at such a prominent role for the player who sued them.

On the other side of the ledger, however, Robertson points to the strides they all made. “Look at the money guys are making now,” he said. “Look at the [charter-jet, luxury-hotel] travel. There’s an orthopedic doctor at the games. You get better meal money. You have a right to go to other teams if you don’t have a valid and existing contract with your team.

“There’s no doubt about it — we were there during some [pivotal] years for the NBA.”

So there are some of the pros and cons, in Robertson’s view, as James mulls a potential candidacy: The time commitment, the opportunities skipped, the politics involved, knowing when to delegate and so on. The Hall of Famer said he would be willing to advise James, if asked. Also, Robertson’s old friend Jim Quinn — the attorney who worked on the lawsuit four decades ago and helped broker the lockout settlement 20 months ago — is again working with the NBPA in its search for Hunter’s replacement.

The union’s greatest challenge now? “Getting rid of personality tiffs. That kills you,” Robertson said.

“Somebody gets upset … because somebody doesn’t like what you’re doing, and they start this current going against you. A lot of players, when they start to make millions of dollars and they get agents who also are afraid to have their little nest egg cut off, that’s what happens.”

James, through force of personality and basketball superiority, might be the right choice to stem that.

LeBron James’ Latest MVP: Most Vocal

 

Any doubts that this is LeBron James‘ NBA and the other players currently are just participating in it should have been shelved last weekend. No, not by what the reigning Most Valuable Player and runaway favorite again for the 2012-13 award (sorry, Charles) did in the All-Star Game on Sunday, though his 19 points, five assists and three 3-pointers in 30 minutes weren’t shabby.

James made his greater impact the day before, when he led the discussion – some have referred to it as part interrogation, part rallying cry – of fellow union members at which National Basketball Players Association Billy Hunter was relieved of his duties.

Insiders marveled immediately at how forceful both the Miami Heat supertar and Brooklyn Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse were, among the 35-40 players in the hotel meeting room, in vetting the recent investigation into Hunter’s nepotism and conflicts of interest and in moving the group toward a cleaner, more player-driven organization.

The vote of team player reps to oust Hunter was unanimous, 24-0 (not all teams were represented). The reconfigured executive committee, several of whom stood behind union president Derek Fisher when the outcome was announced, featured a handful of new members (including Stackhouse) along with some holdovers.

But it wouldn’t have gotten to that point in the span of a couple of hours, if not for James and Stackhouse challenging the business audit conducted by law firm Paul, Weiss, then challenging their peers to take the union back.

The New York Times quoted one person in the room as saying, “It was spectacular.”

“It’s a misperception that we try to fight, that this was the first meeting LeBron has attended or this was the first time LeBron said something,” said Miami teammate James Jones, the NBPA’s secretary-treasurer. “LeBron’s always talking about how we can improve our game and the issues surrounding our game. Because he’s one of this league’s brightest faces and brightest stars.”

Star power matters in situations like this, not just when national media is focused on a lockout and collective-bargaining talks. James and other big names such as Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce made their presence in Manhattan known in the fall of 2011, when the NBA was shut down and sliced from 82 games to 66 in 2011-12 before an agreement was reached.

But dealing with internal strife matters, too, as does the reorganization and the strides that can be made during times of labor peace. It’s not just for the 10th or 12th men on NBA rosters (Chris Paul was the only perennial All-Star on the exec committee.)

“I want to be educated,” James told NBA.com late Thursday night, after the Heat’s drubbing of the Bulls in Chicago. “Not only so I’m educated individually but so I can relate to my teammates and my teammates can relate it to their friends in the league. So we all can be more knowledgeable about it and not be caught off guard – that’s what happened. Everybody asks about [the Hunter crisis] and when you don’t have an answer, that doesn’t look good.”

If others were impressed with him, James said he was impressed with Stackhouse, 38 and 18 years into an NBA career that might not continue beyond this spring. The Nets swingman wasn’t just vocal – he accepted a VP spot on the union board. Stackhouse also was working the visitors dressing room at Barclays Center Friday, along with NBPA attorney Ron Klempner, talking with members of the Houston Rockets.

“That shows a lot,” James said of Stackhouse’s commitment. “He’s almost finished with his career and it’s not about him. It’s about the collective.”

Fisher and the other players took no questions from reporters last week after reading a statement of less than three minutes announcing Hunter’s dismissal. But Jones said the 8-0 vote against Fisher last spring, seeking his resignation, was set aside at the meeting when the case against Hunter was made clear to those players in attendance. “What happened in the past is in the past,” Jones said. “Derek is our president and we’re all behind him.”

The Heat reserve also said that it wasn’t true that most NBA players are ignorant of or disinterested in union business until trouble looms. “It’s not like we’re trying to keep 20,000 members involved,” Jones said. “We’ve got about 450 . It’s a misconception that they’re not involved.”

Still, many critics have cited Fisher and others for allowing Hunter’s questionable decisions – hiring family members, directing NBPA investments, paying certain improper expenses and the limited oversight of his contract extension – to occur on their watch. Even Fisher said after the meeting, “Going forward, we’ll no longer be divided, misled, misinformed. This is our union and we’re taking it back.”

That, James said, was his motivation last weekend.

Hunter, 70, is expected to mount a legal challenge, pending the results of criminal investigations into the matter. Or he may simply seek a settlement of the $10.5 million he says is still owed to him. The union might turn to an executive search firm to find a replacement for Hunter, unless Klempner seeks the position permanently and is a consensus choice.

“We haven’t got to that point yet,” James said. “We cleaned our house with the firing of Billy, releasing him. Right now we are getting things in order. But we are not going to take a step back. We’re going to push forward and make sure we have more of an emphasis on the players.

“We feel like that’s something that should be done – the players’ voices mean something. In the past, it wasn’t the players that we heard so much.”

And there’s no better time, with relative labor peace until at least 2017.

“Yeah, that’s why you get started now,” James said. “So at least you have a plan by the time it’s time to talk again.”

Hunter Responds To NBPA Termination

HOUSTON — Reporters in the room didn’t get to ask questions. Billy Hunter didn’t even get that from the NBA players union and president Derek Fisher, after they announced publicly that they had terminated him from the position of executive director.

Hunter and his representatives were still saying Saturday evening that they hadn’t received official notice that he had been voted out at the National Basketball Players Association annual All-Star meeting. He was not allowed to attend the afternoon meeting to defend himself. So, he issued a statement suggesting that the way in which his ouster was handled is “indicative” of the union’s actions in the weeks since his business practices were questioned. And he seemed to assure Fisher’s prediction things might proceed in “an ugly way” for a while.

Here is the statement from Hunter, the NBPA’s executive director since 1996, as posted on www.gbillyhunter.blogspot.com

I have yet to receive any notification, other than published news reports, that the NBPA has terminated my employment.  If accurate, it is indicative of the extremely troubling process followed by the NBPA during the past few weeks. During the days and weeks ahead, my legal team and I will begin carefully reviewing the actions taken and statements made against me in the meeting room in my absence.  I look forward to gathering the evidence showing how certain individuals made sure the outcome was pre-ordained.

After 17 years of representing NBA players during CBA negotiations and defending their rights in other proceedings, not once was there an occasion where one side was denied an opportunity to be heard.  The current interim regime in control of the NBPA has set a terrible precedent for the union.  It violates every tenet of fairness upon which the union was founded.  Now that this has occurred, I will continue to examine all of my options, including whether the fairness that was absent from the NBPA process might be available in a different forum.  In addition, given the legitimate legal and governance questions surrounding the eligibility of the members who voted and the adherence, or lack thereof, to the constitution and bylaws, I do not consider today’s vote the end, only a different beginning.  My legal representatives and I will resume communication with the NBPA to determine how to best move forward in the best interests of all parties.

NBA Players Union Ousts Longtime Director Billy Hunter

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HOUSTON – Calling it “a day of change,” Derek Fisher told a roomful of reporters that the National Basketball Players Association had voted unanimously to terminate the employment of Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director since 1996.

That’s how Fisher, the union president, opened his statement. Moments later – and there weren’t many of those in the brief-statement, no-questions news conference that lasted fewer than three minutes – Fisher added: “We do not doubt that this process will possibly continue in an ugly way.”

Apparently, a day of change doesn’t happen overnight.

A group of NBA players estimated to number somewhere between 35 to 50 – All-Stars, participants in assorted weekend events, team player representatives and other interested union members – gathered Saturday afternoon to hear specifics in the NBPA’s dispute with Hunter and ultimately decide his fate. The roll-call included Miami’s LeBron James, New York’s Tyson Chandler, Chicago’s Joakim Noah, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, the L.A. Lakers’ Steve Blake, Houston’s Chandler Parsons and Cleveland’s Daniel Gibson, among the many.

Battle lines were drawn three weeks ago when an independent business review commissioned by the players was released, citing Hunter for nepotism and conflicts of interest and raising questions about the validity of his most recent contract extension. Hunter countered by saying that none of the incidents reported – including hiring two of his daughters or directing union financial business to an investment firm that employs his son – rose to the level of criminal conduct, though he swiftly instituted “reforms” against such activity. He also maintained that his contract – which pays Hunter an annual salary of about $3 million, with an estimated $10.5 million still due him – did receive proper oversight, per NBPA by-laws.

Friction between Hunter and Fisher sparked during and after the 2011 NBA lockout. The in-fighting led to a unanimous vote by what then was an eight-member executive committee of players seeking Fisher’s resignation. But with report last month from law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a newly configured committee voted 5-0 to place Hunter on paid leave of absence.

By announcing Hunter’s dismissal without fielding questions, there was no explanation offered for how an 8-0 committee vote against Fisher got turned around so thoroughly. Or what the veteran NBA guard’s future holds in relation to his union role. Or whether a broader vote by the general membership would be held or needed.

Up at the podium Saturday, Fisher said simply that he would continue as president. San Antonio forward Matt Bonner will serve as vice president and Miami’s James Jones continues as secretary-treasurer.

Brooklyn’s Jerry Stackhouse – who had been urging an NBPA housecleaning that would sweep out Hunter and Fisher – is the first vice president-elect. Chris Paul, Roger Mason Jr., Andre Iguodala, Stephan Curry and Willie Green will serves as vice presidents on the new executive committee.

Fisher’s brief statement did not provide a specific reason for Hunter’s termination or comment on the validity of his contract. Instead, Fisher said: We want to make it clear that we are here to serve only the best interests of the players. No threats, no lies, no distractions will stop us from serving our membership.”

Fisher alluded to “three ongoing government investigations pending” into Hunter’s business practices, including the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York. Some outsiders had speculated that the players might keep Hunter on his paid leave of absence while waiting for those investigations to be completed, perhaps in the hope they would provide “cause” for his firing.

But a union source told NBA.com that bringing the situation to a head now, rather than waiting, would be more helpful to the NBPA if the two sides opt to reach some settlement.

The 70-year-old Hunter, who had held his post since 1996, had wanted to participate in the players’ annual meeting at All-Star Weekend to provide his side of the story but he was told by the union he would not be permitted to attend. Instead, he put his rebuttal on a website, challenging the union’s position on him and handling of the matter.

But Fisher and his peers, as they stood at the front of a mostly empty banquet hall, seemed eager at least for the sounds of closure. “Going forward,” he said, “we’ll no longer be divided, misled, misinformed. This is our union and we’re taking it back.”

NBA All-Stars May Help Decide Fate of Union Exec Hunter

HOUSTON – Traditionally, All-Star Saturday calls to mind images of dunkers, marksmen and practitioners of the pebble-grain arts in a night filled with hoopla and hoops. This weekend, though, All-Star Saturday will be a call to order — a call to arms, even — with the bonus imagery of grim-faced NBA stars in street clothes emerging from hotel meeting rooms.

Those sort of lockout flashbacks could be in play given the busy agenda for the NBA players’ union in its mid-winter meeting Saturday afternoon. Billy Hunter, embattled executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, could be ousted by a players vote if the findings of an independent business review animate and carry the day. Or, Hunter’s paid leave of absence – imposed on Feb. 1 amid charges that he engaged in nepotism, conflicts of interest and other improper business practices – could continue indefinitely while the NBPA explores its tactical and legal options.

“To be honest, I don’t know that much about it,” Chicago center Joakim Noah said during All-Star media availability Friday. “But the things that I hear are kind of alarming. It doesn’t feel clean. It’s not a good feeling to feel that way. We should feel comfortable, if he’s representing us, as players.”

Noah’s reaction is typical of a lot of union members – he happens to be one of Chicago’s player reps – who pay attention mostly to the big stuff: elections, lockouts and alleged violations of trust. That’s why the report in late January by law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison — commissioned by the players out of a rift between Hunter and NBPA president Derek Fisher – is grabbing their attention.

Hunter was criticized in the report for hiring two daughters, for directing NBPA financial business to an investment firm (Prim Capital) that employed his son, for using union funds for personal expenses and for allegedly working on a contract – which pays him an annual salary of about $3 million – that was improperly ratified. He was not cited for any criminal infractions, he defended his conduct and, after the report was released, Hunter recommended policy reforms to prevent similar abuses in the future.

The chances of Hunter hanging onto his job have worsened over the past two weeks. Several NBA players, including Boston’s Paul Pierce and Brooklyn’s Jerry Stackhouse, called for his removal as one of several union changes. Arn Tellem, one of the league’s most powerful player agents, wrote a letter to his clients urging them to vote for Hunter’s termination.

His plan to explain to and persuade the players by attending their meeting Saturday ended when they opted not to invite him. Instead, Hunter and a team of attorneys posted statements of his position – and the PowerPoint presentation he had intended to show the players – on a “blog” Friday. Hunter, 70, has held his position since 1996, steering the union through two major lockouts and presiding over an increase in the average player salary to $5 million.

“Billy Hunter’s always been, in my eyes, an honest person and I support him,” Memphis forward Zach Randolph said. “Whatever he does, I don’t have no problem with it. I read some of the report that came out and I didn’t see him doing anything wrong.”

Randolph said he “might be at the meeting” and that, if the opportunity arises, he “definitely would” speak up on Hunter’s behalf. Others sounded more non-committal, seeking details before passing judgment.

“Part of why I’ll be at the meeting, I want to know exactly what’s going on,” Bulls forward Luol Deng said. “I can’t speak out for something I’m not 100 percent about. I know Billy Hunter’s a good guy. Everything that’s happened? I don’t know.”

Said Golden State forward David Lee: “The most important thing is, we need to all be united in whatever we decide. Right now, it looks like there’s some indecision and some things we need sorted out. Whatever we decide, whatever direction we go in, we all need to be on the same page.”

Getting this fixed – Hunter has a reported $10.5 million left on his contract and will sue to be paid in full, sources said – represents a challenge to the NBPA. Like a lot of similar associations, apathy can take hold and member involvement often slackens until the next crisis.

“But it’s very important,” said L.A. Clippers guard Chris Paul, a member of the interim executive committee. “Players are the union. We want to make sure we have a strong union, everybody believes in what’s going on and we move on.”

San Antonio reserve Matt Bonner, also on the five-man committee of union vice presidents, said this can be an opportunity for the NBPA, as well. Having its business put out in the street like this is a public relations blow, he acknowledged. But a greater good could follow.

“Players reps will be here, additional players will be here, and we can have a really productive discussion on how we’re going to move this thing forward,” Bonner said. “The more player involvement we have, the better.

Union Chief Hunter Makes Case Via Blog

HOUSTONBilly Hunter is taking his case to the people.

Hunter, the embattled executive director of the National Basketball Players Association — currently on indefinite leave amid charges of nepotism, conflicts of interest and improper business practices — has a new blog designed to do just that. It’s at: http://www.gbillyhunter.blogspot.com/

Hunter’s fate as NBPA executive director is expected to be decided at the union’s annual meeting Saturday at All-Star Weekend. Whether he would be permitted to attend the meeting — to rebut the charges that surfaced in a report in late January commissioned by the players from law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison — remained in doubt as union members began to gather here Thursday.

To make his case regardless, or perhaps to leverage his way to an audience with the players, a team of Hunter attorneys Friday morning announced “Mr. Hunter’s new blog, simply designed for two purposes.”

1) To keep many of you updated on the status of Mr. Hunter’s position with the NBPA.  Many of you have graciously inquired about the well-being of both Mr. Hunter and his family during this challenging time.

2)  To provide a strong preliminary rebuttal to the Paul Weiss Report which was one-sided in content and not characteristic of Mr. Hunter’s successful 17 year tenure of the NBPA.

In the Paul, Weiss report, Hunter was found to have employed family members, paying them and their professional firms nearly $4.8 million since 2001. He used a financial firm, Prim Capital, that employed his son Todd for NBPA investments. He also allegedly negotiated a contract extension — at an annual salary of about $3 million — without seeking proper approval of the union’s executive board and spent NBPA funds on a variety of expenses questioned in the report. Hunter told the New York Times in a recent interview that he expected to be paid the balance of his contract — $10.5 million in salary and benefits — whether he is retained or not.

Friction between union president Derek Fisher, a veteran NBA point guard, and Hunter has its roots in the league’s 2011 lockout. Fisher’s role also is in question, if only because he currently is not an active NBA player. Some players, including stridently outspoken Brooklyn veteran Jerry Stackhouse, have urged a sweep of the union’s hierarchy, including Hunter, Fisher and the executive committee.

The meeting Saturday, initially scheduled for morning, has been moved to mid-day to accommodate players’ travel needs, one source told NBA.com. Anticipating resistance to allowing him counter the charges in person, Hunter’s “blog” features links to a 21-page preliminary response, an executive summary and a PowerPoint presentation intended for the players.

The release sent to NBA media outlets Friday concluded:

Many players expected to hear from Mr. Hunter in Houston and have expressed dismay that he has not not been invited by the interim leadership regime — whose authority to place him on administrative leave is not supported by the union’s Constitution or bylaws.  Therefore, Mr. Hunter was left with no choice but to communicate with the public in a more direct manner to ensure that his response to the allegations was heard without filter.

As we have all been taught from childhood, there is always another side to the story that should be evaluated in any circumstance and before any judgments are made or actions, once taken, cannot be reversed.

Nets’ Stackhouse On Players Union: Hunter, Fisher, Others Must Go

Several NBA players, including Boston’s Paul Pierce and Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, have said that a change is needed atop the National Basketball Players Association’s hierarchy. In other words, Billy Hunter, cited recently for nepotism and conflicts of interest after 16 years as the union’s executive directory, needs to go.

Now, Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse adds his voice, perhaps the most strident yet, to those seeking reforms that begin but don’t necessarily end with Hunter being replaced. Stackhouse made his views clear to Detroit News reporter Vincent Goodwill after Brooklyn’s victory over the Pistons Wednesday.

“I think we need wholesale changes all the way around,” Stackhouse said. “I think everybody’s pointing the finger at Billy, and rightfully so. He’s made some wrong moves, but at the same time, we’ve sat and allowed those moves to be made.”

In other words, NBA players bear responsibility for whatever has gone on that they might not like. That includes union president Derek Fisher and members of the NBPA’s executive committee.

Stackhouse says Hunter isn’t the only one who needs to be shown the door.

“Derek has stepped up and has really tried to grab the reins but I think he has to go too,” he said. “If you’re not aware of everything that’s happened on your watch for so long, I think the whole system is flawed.”

Stackhouse, a 1995 lottery pick in his 18th NBA season with his eighth franchise, said he will travel to Houston next week for what are expected to be some heavy-duty union meetings at All-Star weekend.

“I plan on going to make my point. I won’t be surprised if Billy was there, with all he’s done he’ll try to show his face and act as if business as usual,” Stackhouse said. “The same thing with Derek. They can’t operate as if business as usual. They’ve shown their flaws too much to still continue in their positions.”

With the current collective bargaining agreement in place for five more years, Stackhouse sees this as a time for the union to get its house in order. For that to happen, though, every NBA player has to show an interest in his and his peers’ business interests, rather than sticking someone in each team’s locker room with the “player rep” role and leaving important work only to them.

Some might note that Stackhouse, 38, wasn’t a familiar face at a lot of the CBA talks during the 2011 lockout. Others might wonder if he’s angling for a post-playing career as a union exec – though that would require him to stop playing, which Stackhouse has show no signs of doing.

Besides, he said, this matter is bigger than one guy’s ire or ambitions.

“It’s not about me,” said Stackhouse, who is likely to retire after this season or the next. “It’s about a league that’s been great to me and great to a lot of other people, to make sure we keep growing. The league is growing and the salaries should grow too.”