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NBPA to conduct business review, hoping Fisher will choose 'graceful exit'

NEW YORK -- Hoping that cooler heads will prevail in the power struggle for union leadership, the National Basketball Players Association is beginning the process of conducting an independent business review in the hopes that Derek Fisher voluntarily steps down as president, league sources told CBSSports.com Monday.

A committee of player representatives to be headed by NBPA treasurer James Jones of the Miami Heat will begin the process and ultimately will select a management consulting firm to conduct the review of the union's business practices, one of the people familiar with the mattter said. The committee would be open to recommendations from its fellow sports unions, such as the Major League Baseball Players Association or NHLPA, but the final decision would be at the discretion of the committee headed by Jones.

Union officials are proceeding with the review process, standard procedure that has been conducted after each of the past two collective bargaining agreements were ratified in 1999 and 2005, in the hopes that Fisher will choose a "graceful exit" and that the union's internal strife will not distract from the playoffs beginning Saturday, a source said. The union's finances are independently audited annually, and complete finacial statements are furnished each year to the U.S. Dept. of Labor under federal law.

The messier alternative would be for the NBPA to schedule a vote of the player reps on whether Fisher should contiunue as union president. Fisher's fellow executive committee members voted 8-0 last week that they've lost confidence in him and that he should resign.

Fisher has refused, and he sent a memo first to the executive commitee members and then to the entire union membership asking for support in his effort to have an independent review of the NBPA's business practices conducted.

In a statement released by his publicist Friday, Fisher said he was "extremely disappointed" with the executive committee's actions.

"Their demand for my resignation and their need to protect the NBPA management and their own best interests instead of protecting the players we were elected to serve is unfortunate," Fisher said.

Fisher, a five-time champion with the Lakers, has two years left on his term as NBPA president. Now with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Fisher has not publicly divulged the specific areas of concern in the union's business dealings.

"Why would I try and ask certain questions and call into review the association that I'm the president of unless I thought that there were some serious questions that needed to be answered?" Fisher told reporters last week. "... I'll take the hits or the negative comments that may come or whatever may happen."

According to union sources, Fisher has offered few specifics about his concerns even in private conversations with them, though a picture of the areas Fisher believes require review is beginning to emerge. Among other things, Fisher is concerned about the NBPA's business relationships and whether the union is "hiring the right people for the right jobs," a person close to the union president told CBSSports.com. Several relatives of executive director Billy Hunter, including his daughter and daughter-in-law, are on the NBPA staff. Other Hunter relatives have been retained to run outside programs or as outside counsel for the union.

Hunter, who makes $2.4 million annually according to the NBPA's publicly filed financial statements, has four more years on his contract.

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