Kobe: Players must get up to speed, and stars need to lead union
NEW YORK -- Ten days before they will decide the future of union chief Billy Hunter, Lakers star Kobe Bryant said Tuesday that most NBA players -- including himself -- are "pretty ignorant" about the issues they'll be deciding. Bryant also said it's time for star players to take a more active role in the NBPA.
NEW YORK -- Ten days before union chief Billy Hunter's future will be decided, Lakers star Kobe Bryant said Tuesday that most NBA players -- including himself -- are "pretty ignorant" about the issues.
"I’m pretty ignorant to what the issues are going to be when we show up, so I don’t know," Bryant said at the team's shootaround in preparation for Tuesday night's game in Brooklyn against the Nets. "I’m pretty sure most of the players are, so we’ll have to educate ourselves. Will a vote come? Probably. We’ve just got to make sure we’re educated enough to make the right the decision."
Hunter, the NBPA's executive director for 16 years, was placed on indefinite leave Friday in the wake of a nine-month review of the union's finances and business practices. The findings, published Jan. 17 in a 469-page report, pointed to questionable judgment in Hunter's hiring practices, his handling of conflicts of interest and stewardship of union resources.
Asked if his fellow players would have time during the season to examine all the findings, Bryant said, "They’re not going to read the entire report. You’ve got to get like a synopsis."
Given his close relationship with union president Derek Fisher, whose complaints about Hunter led to the nine-month review, Bryant was surprisingly noncommittal about Hunter's future. Bryant said he has not spoken with Fisher about the matter.
"I think he represented us as well as he possibly could," Bryant said of Hunter. "You could always wish that you had a better deal. The fact is the owners are going to have leverage as long as they continue to own teams. That’s just how it is. They can continue to lock us out for as long as they want.
"Strategically, maybe we can come up with different angles and different ways of going about doing things that could possibly put us in a better position," he said. "But ultimately, the owners are the ones who have the leverage."
In October, while the review was still ongoing, Bryant told CBSSports.com, "I support Fisher 100 percent. ... You can always hire new people to come in and manage the situation."
If Bryant, a thoughtful elder statesman of the league, isn't up on the issues, there's little hope the rank-and-file will show up in Houston for All-Star weekend Feb. 15-17 with the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision. It's expected that players will be asked to fill any vacant posts on the board of player representatives; elect as many as seven new members of the executive committee; and conduct an up-or-down vote on whether Hunter's contract as executive director should be honored or terminated.
The report on Hunter "might help some of the other guys see the light, so to speak," Bryant said. Asked if his teammates were taken aback by the report's findings, Bryant said, "I haven't spoken about it, but they should be."
Bryant, 34, did say that the league's star players need to step up and take more of a leadership role in the union. It's a subject that Bryant said he discussed with Chris Paul in a meeting during the latter stages of the 2011 lockout.
"You always look at your marquee guys, right?" Bryant said. "Back in the day you and Isiah [Thomas] there, you had Magic [Johnson] there, so you’re looking at [Kevin] Durant, myself, Chris [Paul] and guys who are faces of the league. Even if you’re not representing your team as far as a union standpoint goes, be a little more active."
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