Paul sits, weighs in on 'messy' NBPA fight
After the Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul sat out a 99-93 loss to the New York Knicks Wednesday night, he addressed the "messy" power struggle that has engulfed the National Basketball Players Association.
If Memphis beats Orlando at home Thursday night, the fourth-seeded Grizzlies would open the best-of-seven series against the fifth-seeded Clippers at home. Paul said he, coach Vinny Del Negro and the training staff decided before the game that "the playoffs are too close to even go out and risk" his strained groin -- though a victory over the Knicks would've assured the Clips homecourt advantage.
"Now, we've got to sit and wait," Paul said after the Knicks beat the CP3-less Clippers 99-93.
Paul said the decision to sit came down to the fact that "it's the last game of the season and the playoffs start in a couple of days." Paul's injury was precarious enough that the Clippers decided it wasn't worth risking it even if the price was losing a chance at home court against Memphis. Paul, however, vowed that he will be "fine" for the playoffs.
"I'll be good," he said.
On his way out of Madison Square Garden Wednesday night, Paul stopped to address a gathering storm far more ominous than any basketball game, no matter where it's played. Paul, the only All-Star on the nine-member executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association, briefly addressed the internal power struggle between executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher.
"I don’t have any perspective on it right now," Paul told CBSSports.com. "I’m so locked in on the playoffs. ... I havent been able to talk to anybody or know really too much what’s going on."
As the most prominent member of the committee that voted 8-0 last week that Fisher should resign as president amid his efforts to have an independent review of the union's business practices, Paul's voice matters. The controversy deepened Wednesday when Yahoo Sports reported details of a questionable investment that Hunter had explored with a failing bank in New Jersey of which Hunter's son, Todd, was a board member. Todd Hunter also is a vice president of Prim Capital, a financial company that has a consulting contract with the NBPA dating from business relationships that were established by Hunter's predecessor, Charles Grantham.
After Fisher's efforts to hire New York firm Patton Boggs to review the union's business and hiring practices became public last week, the focus has shifted to two other Hunter family members who hold union staff positions, including his daughter-in-law -- Todd Hunter's wife -- who began working for the NBPA before she married Hunter's son. Another daughter is a high-ranking attorney at the Washington, D.C., firm Steptoe & Johnson, which handled the union's unfair labor practices charge against the NBA during the lockout last year. Bloomberg News, citing publicly available financial statements, reported this week that the NBPA has paid nearly $4.8 million to Hunter's family members and their firms since 2001.
Hunter did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Union spokesman Dan Wasserman declined to comment.
But Hunter defended the union's hiring practices in a story published Tuesday in the New York Times, saying the decisions were "vetted" and that his children are "highly credentialed." Such hiring decisions and contracts entered into by the union must be approved by the players' executive committee, of which Fisher has been a member since 2006.
"You’re not going to find anything illegal, you or anybody else, if that’s what you’re looking for," Hunter told the Times. "I’m not afraid of that.”
As the NBA concludes a more successful than anticipated post-lockout regular season and prepares for the playoffs beginning Saturday, the league's negotiating adversary in the 149-day work stoppage is in chaos. Commissioner David Stern, on his annual pre-playoff conference call Wednesday, called the strife "interesting," but added, "I can't think of a circumstance in which we would involve ourselves in that. That's internal union business."
The next step, as CBSSports.com reported Monday, would be for the executive committee to move forward with a business review -- as has been customary after each of the past two labor agreements in 1999 and 2005. But sources said the review would not be handled by the firm selected by Fisher, and union officials are hopeful that Fisher would opt to resign in what one person familiar with the situation described as a "graceful exit."
Fellow committee members have mentioned Paul as a possible replacement for Fisher, who has two years left on his term as president and vowed in a memo to the players and a public statement last week that he would not step aside.
"I'm honored," Paul said Wednesday night, "but I don't even think about that."
As for what he'd like to see happen next in the battle for control of the NBPA, Paul said, "Not a clue. I just feel like it's messy right now."
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