Posts Tagged ‘Ron Klempner’

Silver Offers Glimpse Of The Fan Within


VIDEO: Commissioner Adam Silver’s opening statement at All-Star 2014

NEW ORLEANS – In the first few minutes of his most notable public appearance to date as the NBA’s newly minted commissioner, Adam Silver may have given people a greater glimpse into what drives him than David Stern, his predecessor, offered in 30 years.

Silver worked solo Saturday night at the annual state-of-the-league All-Star Weekend media session that Stern – part Borscht Belt stand-up act, part bully pulpit – handled so masterfully through the years. After a series of acknowledgements (including one to Stern, who is in Aspen this weekend), Silver offered an “Intro to Adam” that showed the beating heart of a diehard basketball fan.

“The league has certainly changed my life. The game of basketball has,” Silver said, a little nervous and emotional as he spoke of some of the mileposts in his journey to this night. “When I was younger, when my parents were first divorced, basketball is what bonded my father and I together.”

Silver, 51, is a native New Yorker, the youngest of four children. He grew up as a Knicks fan, played on a junior league team in grade school and eventually attended Duke University, where students choose their majors but basketball is nearly everyone’s minor.

“I was never a paint-your-face kind of kid,” Silver said. “[But] when I was there, I experienced some of the best college basketball maybe ever.”

Silver spoke of ACC stars, of Ralph Sampson and Gene Banks, of Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins. “I would say that had enormous meaning on my life,” he said, “and it was only sort of back then that I think I started to understand how meaningful this game of basketball is to so many people, and the impact it has on so many people’s lives.”

Silver joined the NBA in 1992 as a special assistant to Stern before working his way into the deputy commissioner role. He has traveled the world and been intimately involved with most of the league’s big ideas and issues: labor negotiations, television contracts, international initiatives to grow the sport, technological innovation. But his passion for the game stayed close to the surface.

“I’ve been with the league so long that if there were issues that I thought required immediate attention, I would like to think in partnership with David we would have addressed those,” Silver said. “The coming together of the larger community of basketball is probably my priority, and that means focusing on the game all the way up from the young level through college to the pros.”

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, president of the National Basketball Players Association, already has begun working with Silver on multiple fronts. “Adam has been unbelievable, wonderful,” Paul said this weekend, “in talking with us about increasing the dialogue between the players and NBA front offices.”

But Silver’s news conference was a coming-out moment that kicked off All-Star Saturday night, shared with a roomful and a global TV audience. He worked his way through a number of questions:

  • Asked about technology, Silver quickly balanced that by citing transparency as one of his “guiding principles,” through the use of replays in officiating but elsewhere too. “Transparency in how decisions are made at the league office, transparency in how we deal with our players and the Players Association,” Silver said.
  • Silver said he wasn’t looking to alter Stern’s approach, sounding more like he’d build on it in exploring new opportunities and markets. His respect and fondness for his former boss and mentor were evident. “It goes without saying that virtually none of us would be here without David,” Silver said, congratulating the “commissioner emeritus” on his direct election Friday into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • Like Stern, Silver is an advocate of adding a year to the current eligibility rule for young players to enter the NBA Draft. Bumping the minimum age to 20 years old and turning prospects’ college careers into two-and-done would help both the NBA and the NCAA, he said, which he considers appropriate. “If players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time, before they come into the league, it will be a better league,” he said.
  • “Tanking,” a buzzword this season as teams consider the depth of the 2014 Draft, conjures teams “losing games on purpose,” Silver said. “There’s absolutely no evidence that any team in the NBA has ever lost a single game – or certainly, in any time that I’ve been in the league – on purpose.” Rebuilding is something quite different. But Silver sounded open to adjusting the lottery system or odds, as needed.
  • An area in which Silver brings his greatest expertise, and has gained the most trust from 30 owners, is television. Negotiations of the next TV deal are ongoing, with blockbuster expectations attached. As for those who feel that broadcast coverage has been crowded out by cable – affecting fans who don’t have or might not be able to afford cable, where all of All-Star Weekend could be found – that world has changed. “It really to me is the quality of the coverage and the ability to reach homes in America,” Silver said, “which we’re doing now.”
  • Silver talked again about the refinement of the league’s use of instant replay, improving the system while heeding the flow of games. Going to an off-site central replay system “similar to what the NHL does right now,” with plays reviewed more swiftly and consistently, sounds like merely a matter of time.
  • Sleeved jerseys? Silver said he’s sensitive to player concerns but reaction has been mixed and statistics show no adverse effects on performance. Meanwhile, apparel sales have been strong, he said. “On one hand, people keep encouraging me to try new things,” the commissioner said, “and then when we try something new, people say you’ve lost your mind. … It’s something we’re trying. We’re having some fun with it. Long-term, we’ll see.”
  • Those jerseys do provide more acreage for ads, and ads on game jerseys don’t face the same threat of zapping that conventional commercials do. “Those live images are critically important to our marketing partners,” he said. “I think it ultimately will happen.”
  • Expansion, domestically or internationally, does not rank high on Silver’s list. The financial viability and competitive strength of the NBA’s existing teams matters more.
  • The goals espoused during the 2011 lockout – greater financial health and more competitive balance – are playing out in Silver’s view. “The fact that we had four teams in the conference finals last year who are all in the bottom half of the league in terms of market size is a strong indication,” he said.
  • Despite concerns that the players association has not hired a replacement for deposed executive director Billy Hunter after more than a year, Silver said the delay has not squelched dealings with the union. Acting director Ron Klempner is available to address the most pressing issues, and the current CBA can’t be reopened by either side until 2017.

Here again, Silver’s sense of stewardship for the game and the league emerged. He sounded very much in sync, frankly, with comments earlier in the day that came from the NBPA’s player-rep meeting.

Silver said it is important for the players to understand that collective bargaining is only “one small aspect of what their union is there for.” He spoke of pensions, health care and other topics, not necessarily related to wrangling over the 50-50 split between players and owners of NBA revenue.

“Their greatest incentive should be to grow this league with us,” Silver said. “That’s going to have such a greater impact ultimately on their salaries than sort of tinkering around with the percentages of [basketball-related income].

“So I’m looking forward to dealing with a partner in this league, not an adversary, a partner that’s going to continue to build this league with me and with the league.”


VIDEO: Commissioner Silver on the issue of “tanking”

NBPA’s Director Search Still In Process Stage

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.

The All-Star Game That Nearly Wasn’t

NEW ORLEANS – In the months, weeks and days leading up to the 1964 All-Star Game, the NBA players and their still-budding union had been blown off more than once by the franchise owners and the league’s hierarchy. Officers and player-reps of the National Basketball Players Association would travel to a Board of Governors meeting, encouraged that they would have an audience with the bosses, only to be left cooling their heels outside the room.

Until the evening of Jan. 14, 1964, when the owners of the NBA’s nine teams were the ones on the wrong side of the door, banging and pleading to get in.

“The owners kept putting us off and putting us off,” said Tom Heinsohn, the Boston Celtics’ Hall of Fame player, coach and broadcaster who was NBPA president at the time (owing mostly to his offseason job in the insurance field). “Finally, we decided, ‘We’re not going to play the All-Star Game.’ “

Boom!

Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics

Tom Heinsohn was the NBPA President during the NBA’s 1964 labor negotiations at All-Star weekend. (Getty Images)

The NBA won’t exactly be celebrating the 50th anniversary of this pivotal moment in its history at All-Star Weekend in the Big Easy. But without it, the league might look nothing at all like it does now, with players and owners building it into one of the most popular sports options on the planet.

Like the union itself – founded in 1954 by Celtics guard Bob Cousy – the issues of 1964 had been on the table for most of a decade. The players were trying to institute a pension plan to cover their some portion of their retirement years. There were concerns about working conditions, such as meal money, full-time trainers (home and road) for each team and schedule considerations (for example, no Sunday matinees after Saturday night games). There also was the sheer recognition of the NBPA as the collective bargaining voice of NBA players, with Larry Fleisher as their executive director.

“They’d tell us they were going to do all these things,” Oscar Robertson said this week, “and then they’d change their minds.”

According to Heinsohn, it was the NBA’s first commissioner, Maurice Podoloff (for whom the MVP trophy is named), who was most resistant to a unionized labor force for the league. The otherwise genial Podoloff, on orders from the league’s nine owners, “did everything possible to thwart our efforts,” Heinsohn said. His successor, J. Walter Kennedy, was said to have fallen right in line with that tactic.

That offseason, one more attempt to pitch their demands to the Board of Governors got dashed. So in the months leading up to the All-Star Game – a Tuesday night affair, not the weekend it is now – Heinsohn and union VPs Lenny Wilkens and Bob Pettit had notified management of their last-ditch plan.

An unexpected opportunity to negotiate

No one took it seriously until that day. A major snowstorm over the nation’s Eastern half led to All-Stars players and NBA owners arriving through the afternoon. Heinsohn met his guys in the hotel as they did, getting them to literally sign onto the petition to boycott the game that evening.

Cincinnati’s Wayne Embry, who arrived with Royals teammates Robertson and Jerry Lucas after being diverted from Cincy to Minneapolis to Washington, with a train to Boston, said: “Tommy was in the lobby. He says, ‘Here’s what’s happening.’ “

Said Heinsohn: “[That list] was the ‘Magna Carta’ of the players association.”

Wayne Embry

Cincinnati Royals star Wayne Embry was a big player in the 1964 NBA labor talks. (Getty Images)

Interestingly, there was a wild card in play that worked in the union’s favor: For the first time, the All-Star Game was being televised live in prime time. The window of air time was finite.

“You can imagine what was at stake for them,” said Embry, the burly center who became pro sports’ first black GM with Milwaukee in the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era. “But there was a lot at stake for us, too. It got pretty tense, with owners threatening players.”

The clock was ticking. Kennedy was sweating. ABC made it known that it would pull the plug on the telecast if the impasse wasn’t broken.

Owners such as the Celtics’ Walter Brown came to the East locker room at Boston Garden, each imploring his players to reconsider. Brown, of course, represented the host team and felt more pressure than his peers for what was unfolding. “He wound up calling me the biggest heel in sports,” Heinsohn said, “and saying, if there’d been a team out in Hawaii, he’d have sent me there.”

Legend has it that Bob Short, the Lakers owner, tried to barge into the room but had to settle for barking some orders to the cop posted outside the door. Said Heinsohn: “He tells this old Irish police guy, ‘I’m Bob Short, the owner of the Lakers. You go tell Elgin Baylor that if he doesn’t get his ass out here fast, I’m done with him!’

“So Elgin gets the word and said back to him, ‘Tell Bob Short to go [expletive] himself.’ “

‘It was something we had to do’

As tempers flared, the players’ resolve intensified.

“We weren’t quite united at first but we soon got there,” was how Robertson recalled it. “It took a little conversation but we got it done. People came in the locker room making threats, telling us we were going to ‘kill basketball’ and ‘What are you doing?’ It was a TV game and we could understand that, but it was something we had to do. If you negotiate in good faith and you agree to do something, you should be true to your word.”

Oscar Robertson

Oscar Robertson, an NBPA exec in 1964, was one of the loudest voices calling for change in the NBA’s labor agreement. (Getty Images)

The “good faith” view of ownership rapidly vanished. Jerry West, Baylor’s L.A. teammate, told the Los Angeles Times in 2011: “The players were controlled by the owners. All of us felt like we were slaves in the sense we had no rights. No one made anything then. You had to work in the summer. It was the stone ages of basketball.”

With ABC executives in his ear and game time fast approaching, Kennedy conferred with his owners. Then he knocked on the locker room door, entered and told the players that, yes, their concerns would be addressed: a pension plan, the working conditions and the rest, giving the NBPA a real voice and solidified seat at the bargaining table.

Pettit and Embry recalled a vote taken by show of hands, with an 18-2 outcome in favor of playing the game.

“There was a lot of discussion, pros and cons among the players,” Pettit said, “and there were players who still thought we should not go out and play. I think it was Wilt Chamberlain who said, ‘We’ve got the commissioner’s guarantee that he’ll do everything in his power. We need to go out and play the game.’ I guess we went out three or four minutes before what was supposed to be tip-off, took one or two layups [as warm-ups] and started the game.”

Embry recalled a delay of about 15 minutes. Others have referred to the near-boycott as “the 22-minute strike.” That night, Robertson was named MVP after scoring 26 points with 14 rebounds and eight assists in the East’s 111-107 victory. Bill Russell had 13 points and 21 rebounds, Chamberlain went for 19 and 20 and Pettit had 19 and 17.

NBPA’s stance paves way for today’s players

The real winners, of course, were the NBA’s rank-and-file players and their union. In time, the pension plan initially designed for only active and future NBA labor was extended back to cover pre-1965 players. That and the other benefits laid a foundation for much of the players’ condition today, including (after subsequent lockouts and wranglings) a $5.7 million average player salary in a league generating $5 billion in annual revenue.

“You talk about money, there wasn’t a whole lot of money in that [locker] room in terms of salary,” Robertson reflected. “Today, I think it would be very, very difficult when guys are making millions and millions of dollars per year for playing basketball – I don’t know if [a threat to boycott the All-Star Game] would have happened today or not. I don’t think a lot of players today are even aware that this happened.”

The NBPA will try to educate them a bit this weekend. Ron Klempner, acting executive director of the NBPA while a search for Billy Hunter‘s replacement continues, told NBA.com this week that the 1964 All-Stars’ stance will be remembered in a video shown before the union’s annual players-rep meeting Saturday.

“Our players are being made very aware of the importance of that stand taken by the 1964 All-Stars,” Klempner said. “It was a watershed moment for labor relations in sports, in terms of the recognition of our union and really in terms of fairness.”

Klempner said the union hoped to have one or two of the participants attend the meeting and possibly other weekend events. Pettit, who lives in Baton Rouge and is a season-ticket holder for the New Orleans Pelicans, is a handy and natural choice. Robertson’s name was in play, though at midweek he said he still had a schedule conflict.

Said Pettit: “It’s important to let [current players] know. Hopefully I’ll have that opportunity to touch base with them on what happened.”

Sixteen of the 20 All-Stars from 1964 still are alive, 50 years later, and it remains a source of pride for those who interviewed. That year was a big one across America, with the Civil Rights Act out of Washington under President Lyndon Johnson. And the stand taken by the NBA players had a ripple effect across other pro sports.

“It was very much a defining moment, 50 years ago, in the history of the NBA and its players,” said Embry, who went onto serve in management roles with Milwaukee, Cleveland and currently Toronto, in addition to private business opportunities such as McDonald’s franchise ownership. “Having been on both sides of unionization in later life, as it turned out, it worked well for both. You’re always going to have labor negotiations, but think about what it would be if you didn’t.”

In the moment, though, that sort of clarity didn’t come easily. Back in 1964, Embry was a 26-year-old from Springfield, Ohio, manning the middle for the Royal, living pretty much paycheck to paycheck and letting others in that East locker room do most of the talking.

“I thought, ‘Well, there goes my job.’ I was an All-Star but I wasn’t a superstar,” Embry said. “I was scared [sick].”

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.”

Has Time Run Out On Embattled Hunter?

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Time appears to be running out on Billy Hunter.

The National Basketball Players Association has accused their executive director of the greatest sin — forgetting his lone task to serve the best interests of membership. On Friday, the NBA Executive Committee put Hunter on indefinite leave of absence.

That decision was announced in a news release in which NBPA president Derek Fisher said that “immediate change is necessary.”

Hunter has been embroiled in controversy since the end of the lockout. But the heat’s been raised in particular over the last couple weeks since an independent law firm’s unsavory findings raised a number of ethical issues, including whether Hunter’s multi-million-dollar contract did not have proper approval from the players representatives, and widespread nepotism.

In the last few weeks, Hunter has scrambled to save his job, including firing family members that he hired to work for the union.

Ron Klempner, currently serving as NBPA Deputy General Counsel, will be appointed Acting Executive Director until further decisions can be made. The executive committee has formed two new committees, the Interim Executive Committee and Advisory Committee, to move the organization forward.

Fisher released this statement:

Unfortunately, it appears that Union management has lost sight of the NBPA’s only task, to serve the best interests of their membership.  This is the reason I called for a review almost a year ago.  The findings of that review confirm this unfortunate truth and we must now move forward as Players.  Immediate change is necessary and I, along with the Committee Members, are committed to driving the process as difficult as it may be.  We ask for the cooperation, trust and patience of the Players, their representatives and some of our hard working NBPA staff as we navigate through this situation.  But rest assured that our goal is to do what is right for the Players and we will emerge stronger than before.

The eight-month review by the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP urged players to consider whether they want to keep Hunter as the union’s executive director when they meet in two weeks in Houston during the All-Star break.

By putting Hunter on a leave of absence now, he will be unable to address the NBPA membership when it gathers in Houston.

The report found no evidence of illegal use of union funds, but it did reveal that Hunter withheld knowledge that his contract was never properly approved by player representatives, that he used poor judgment with his hiring practices to award jobs to family members and that he spent improperly on travel and gifts.

Hunter, 70, took over the top position with the NBPA in 1996.

In as little as two weeks from now, he could be out, which certainly seems to be the direction this is headed.

At that point, what would be next for Hunter? Could he face jail time in the wake of ongoing criminal and civil investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York?

Again, the independent law firm review suggested Hunter did nothing illegal, but stated: “No matter the explanation, when viewed collectively, his choices created the appearance that he operated the union in part for the benefit of his family and friends. The appearance of favoritism has damaged the union. Mr. Hunter’s pattern of involving friends and family in union business contributed to a deep rift among the NBPA staff.”

The report found:

  • Hunter hired his daughter and nephew, permitted a daughter-in-law to remain on staff, and spent more than $80,000 of union funds to evaluate an investment in a banking firm that employed his son
  • Hunter also spent more than $100,000 of union funds to purchase gifts for executive committee members, including a $22,000 watch for Fisher in June 2010, and that he made “questionable choices” when charging travel expenses to the NBPA

At the very least, it appears Hunter will be looking for a new job and the NBPA will have a new person in charge down the road when the next round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations heat up.

We Have (The Makings Of) A Deal!

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

NBA.com’s Labor Central

After 15 hours of negotiations Friday-into-Saturday –- and 149 days of lockout start to finish -– representatives of the NBA owners and players reached a tentative deal on settling their various lawsuits that should lead to a new collective bargaining agreement that will salvage a shortened 2011-12 season beginning on Christmas Day.

Details of what will become a new labor contract still were vague when the meeting ended after 3 a.m. ET at a New York law office. But the bones of a deal reportedly call for the players to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.

NBA commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the players’ former union, met with reporters in an impromptu joint news conference shortly after the meeting.

“We’ve reached a tentative understanding,” Stern said, “that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations. But we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin on December 25th, Christmas Day, with a triple-header.

“We’re very pleased that we’ve come this far. There’s still a lot of work to be done in a lot of places, with a lot of committees and player groups and the like. But we’re optimistic that it will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season.

Stern said the owners’ labor relations committee would be briefed Saturday, with the agreement passing then to the overall Board of Governors. The commissioner said he expects both bodies to endorse the deal.

Said Hunter: “We’re going to turn it all over to the lawyers here and have them work out all the details. We’ll be able to then talk with you further as that process proceeds.” It could take a week to 10 days for the players to re-form their union and ratify a formal CBA.

Stern and Hunter did share a few details on the shortened season. A 66-game regular-season schedule, first reported by the New York Times Wednesday, is likely, pushing the start of a full playoff bracket a week or so later into spring. The plan is for training camps and free agency to both begin on Dec. 9, though details remained sketchy. All-Star Weekend in Orlando, initially set for Feb. 24-26, is expected to be preserved.

Technically, the talks that stretched from noon Friday into the wee hours Saturday were aimed at settling the antitrust lawsuit filed last week by the players when they dissolved their union. But the essence of that settlement will serve as the new CBA, assuming remaining “B-list” issues are worked out, lawsuits by both the players and the league (anticipating the union’s disclaimer of interest) get dismissed, the union gets re-formed with the league’s approval and the deal is ratified by both the NBA’s 30 owners and its 430-plus players.

The “A-list” issues, though, were the ones that had hung up the season, forcing what will be an opening night delayed by 55 days. They’re the ones that caused bargaining to break down Nov. 14 and they’re the ones that needed to be addressed to both sides’ satisfaction –- or tolerable dissatisfaction -– for the tentative agreement to get struck.

Finding middle ground on those was key. Among them:

– The mid-level exception for non-taxpaying teams will have a maximum length of four years every season (instead of alternating at four years, then three years). Starting salary can be as much as $5 million.

– There apparently will be a “mini” MLE for taxpaying teams, restricting the amount they can offer to free agents.

– A 10 percent maximum escrow tax will be withheld without the unlimited “true up” amount requested by the owners in their previous offer.

– Extend-and-trade deals –- as used by Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks last season –- will be modified but not eliminated in a new CBA. That could impact players such as Orlando’s Dwight Howard and New Jersey’s Deron Williams.

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Labor Talks: Our Own Black Friday

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The biggest shopping day of the year holds new meaning for those of us that choose to sit out this annual stampede on discounts across the country.

This is Black Friday in the NBA as well, the day the owners and players get back to the task of trying to save the 2011-12 season and finally end the lockout in time for us to celebrate with some games on Christmas.

We appreciate the way both sides have gone about their business this time around, quietly resuming talks instead of using the cameras to send their messages back and forth.

Of course, the tenor changes today with union president Derek Fisher reportedly joining the fray in New York with the clock ticking on the aforementioned Christmas Day start to a 66-game regular season, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

After deliberating for 24 hours, Players Association president Derek Fisher flew to New York on Thursday night to prepare for Friday’s labor settlement meeting with the NBA, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.

His appearance in this week’s negotiations – along with that of several other key Players Association officials – figures to run the risk of validating the league’s charges that the disbanding of the union was a “sham” negotiating tactic. Nevertheless, the belief that the end of the five-month lockout is within reach this weekend inspired Fisher to make the risky move to join the talks.

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In The Aftermath Of Doomsday …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The frayed emotions and exhausted looks on the faces of basketball lovers worldwide should be impossible to hide this morning.

Now that the doomsday fears have been realized, and the first two weeks of the NBA’s regular season have been canceled, we’re all left with the uneasy feeling of what faces the chopping block next as the lockout digs deeper into the fall.

We can dispense with all of the pleasantries now and get down to brass tacks. Forget about when the season starts. Most fans are wondering this morning if there will be a season. The unthinkable a few weeks ago has become our new reality …

Something To Salvage?

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: Can the season be saved? The answer is yes, so long as the NBA owners are willing to negotiate into January, as they did to resolve their previous lockout in 1999.

Understand that two weeks of NBA games have been wiped away, and that more cancellations are to come. Nothing important is likely to change over the next two weeks that will enable basketball to be played in late November or early December.

On and on it will go, with both sides looking back to the salvation of the ’99 lockout. That resolution a dozen years ago may have influenced these extended talks that failed Monday night in New York. As much anxiety as both sides were feeling to reach an agreement this week, they weren’t experiencing the ultimate pressure that will be felt later this winter when the entire season is at risk. “The problem,” said a former league official who was involved in the negotiations that shortened the 1998-99 season to 50 games, “is that people tend to look at early January as the drop-dead date.”

He was worrying that the absolute final offer from either side may not emerge for another 12 weeks. Not until the final days of this calendar year will the owners fully understand the consequences of losing a full season during a recession, while more than 400 players find themselves confronted with the likelihood of a full year without an NBA paycheck.

In many ways these entire negotiations have gone according to form. It is not the formula anyone would have desired, but it has been entirely predictable. The owners lock out the players July 1, with little negotiating done for most of July and August, followed by sudden urgency to make a deal that can save the full season.

Lost Games Part Of The Plan?

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: On the sidewalk out on 63rd Street, sirens wailing and knucklehead cameramen jostling for position and cursing each other, here was Billy Hunter living in his own movie. Regular-season games lost on his watch, and on David Stern‘s, just as they’d discussed two years ago.

“It goes back to a comment that David said to me several years ago, when he said this is what my owners have to have,” Hunter said Monday night, after the first two weeks of the 2011-12 NBA regular season were canceled. “And I said, ‘Well, the only way you’re going to get that is, you prepare to lock us out for a year or two.’ And he’s indicated to me that they’re willing to do it. So my belief and contention is that everything that he’s done has demonstrated that he’s following that script.”

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Labor Talks: In the Midnight Hour

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Perhaps “no comment,” officially, is the best thing anyone could say at this late stage of the NBA lockout.

After more than five hours of closed-door negotiations in New York Sunday night, the two sides agreed to stay quiet about what was said and resume negotiations Monday at 2 p.m. ET.

“We don’t have any comment at all, other than we are breaking for the night and reconvening tomorrow afternoon,” NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters after emerging from the meeting, which was scrapped as of late Friday night only to be revived over the weekend.

The continuation of talk is better than the alternative. Stern issued a Monday deadline for a new labor agreement to be reached before the first two weeks of the regular season were canceled. Union executive director Billy Hunter was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles this morning for a previously scheduled regional meeting with players, but will instead be back in the meeting room alongside union president Derek Fisher and the rest of their negotiating team.

“We’re not necessarily any closer than we were [going into] tonight,” Fisher told reporters when he hit the New York sidewalk shortly before midnight.

Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, owners Peter Holt of San Antonio and Glen Taylor of Minnesota, and senior vice president and deputy general counsel Dan Rube met with Hunter, Fisher and union vice president Mo Evans. Attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner were also present.

Getting all of them in a room together just two days after both sides agreed that they would not meet without the precondition that the players accept a 50-50 split of BRI was a victory in itself. The introduction of the 50-50 split is what shut down talks Tuesday, when the players rejected the notion outright. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix the subject was not discussed at all during Sunday’s session, which focused solely on … .

We won’t find out exactly where things stand until someone speaks about it in-depth, and preferably on the record. (Both sides agreed not to do so, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.) But the clock continues to tick on Stern’s deadline.

The regular season is scheduled to begin Nov. 1 …