NEW YORK -- If NBA players were waiting for some of the sport's biggest stars to step up and weigh in on the disturbing findings against union chief Billy Hunter, consider that done.
"I think change is needed, top to bottom," Nets star Deron Williams told CBSSports.com on Friday night, becoming the league's first high-profile player to call for Hunter's ouster as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.
"I don't think things were getting voted on like they should have been," Williams said. "... I'm sure there's guys that are still with Billy, and some guys that aren't. We've just got to figure out what the next step is."
Hunter, 70, the union's executive director for 16 years, was the subject of a scathing, 469-page report released Thursday by an independent law firm. While the probe of the union's finances and business practices under Hunter's leadership stopped short of finding him criminally liable, it blasted him with a meticulous assault against what it characterized as questionable stewardship of union finances, failure to properly manage conflicts of interest -- which his hiring of and business relationships with family members created -- as well as a litany of acts that displayed poor judgment and served his personal interests above those of the union.
Most relevant to the union's future leadership, the law firm found that Hunter's 2010 contract extension -- worth as much as $18 million -- was not voted on by the board of 30 player representatives, in violation of the union's constitution and bylaws.
"That's what I mean about stuff not being voted on," Williams said.
Williams, speaking after the Nets' seventh straight home win, 94-89 over Atlanta, acknowledged that he has not read the findings against Hunter, only viewed media reports about them and spoken with other players. The Hawks' Al Horford, a former player rep who participated in some collective bargaining sessions during the lockout, also said he had not had time to read the report.
But the Hawks' Kyle Korver, the Hawks' alternate player rep, has read the summary of the law firm's findings and planned to continue reading on the team's flight home to Atlanta. Korver said it's "incredibly important" that players educate themselves about the findings and get involved in the decision of who will lead the union going forward.
"I think everyone's got to read the information, and we've got to make the decision together," Korver said. "I think where all this can go wrong is when people start throwing out their opinions. We all have the information now. In the past, we didn't always know. You'd hear rumors. Do you believe these agents? Do you believe the union? Do you believe ESPN? This is it. This is the real stuff. So I'm sure there are going to be some decisions made."
The report by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison recommended, among other things, that the players ensure that full rosters of player reps and executive committee members are properly elected and decide quickly whether Hunter should remain as executive director. The firm recommended that the steps be taken as soon as All-Star weekend in Houston next month, when regular NBPA meetings are scheduled.
While investigators did not suggest what should be done about Hunter's future, they did make it clear the players have a strong legal case to dismiss him as executive director because his contract was not properly approved. The report also suggested the players could seek reimbursement from Hunter for certain questionable travel expenses and at least a portion of more than $1 million in unused vacation time for which records were incomplete and payment was not properly vetted by independent advisors.
"If the NBPA's Player Representatives and Executive Committee members decide for any reason that the union deserves a fresh start, they are free to do so," the report stated. "... In our judgment, the Union has no obligation to accept Mr. Hunter's current contract as valid and enforceable."
The "for any reason" aspect of that recommendation could be key for players who are on the fence about Hunter's future in light of the report's findings. The reality is that many players will not read the report, further evidence of the poor player involvement cited in the report as one of the reasons why Hunter's powers went largely unchecked.
But some players, like Williams, and their agents already were displeased with Hunter's job performance before the report's findings were published. While Hunter's perceived losses in three rounds of collective bargaining against NBA commissioner David Stern are a matter for interpretation, the findings against the longtime union chief made it clear that the reasons for dismissing him would not be limited to the report's findings.
"I didn't like how things went down with this negotiation," Williams said. "I sat in on some of the meetings, and nothing good came out of it while I was there. All along, they were telling us, 'Prepare for the lockout.' I think we weren't active enough, weren't aggressive enough. ... I think there could've been some other measures taken -- decertify earlier and a lot of other things."
Whatever the players decide, they won't have much time to learn the facts and get organized. All-Star weekend is only five weeks away.
"We need some of the higher-caliber players to kind of step up and bring some guys together," Korver said. "We need to have some conference calls, and the player reps need to make sure that everyone knows what's going on. I think there's plenty of time to do that. Read the report, talk to a couple of people, and you know what's going on.
"There's already that perception of dumb athletes, that we don't really care as long as we get the paycheck," Korver said. "There might be some guys like that, but there are a lot of guys who aren't. We need to step up and make a decision, and I think we will."