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SBD/January 18, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
It was a “true sellout” of 18,689 at London’s O2 Arena for Knicks-Pistons on Thursday with “almost every seat filled with fans who cheered for every basket” for the NBA’s 13th regular-season game overseas since ’90, according to Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The arena was “jumping with sounds of American tunes." Before the game, the outside of the arena looked “straight from the NBA catalog” as it was “turned into a shrine to basketball's grand history.” Signage depicted the “great history of the NBA, including Magic Johnson's Lakers and Joe Dumars' Pistons in the '80s.” Pistons C Greg Monroe said, “This whole situation, the event, to the people of London is a great idea. I’m pretty sure they’re going to continue doing it. Guys had a lot of fun exploring a new city.” Ellis notes fans “looked the part dressed up in the gear of various NBA teams, including the Knicks, the Pistons and even the Golden State Warriors.” The “goal of the game was simple -- the league is looking to expand its reach into the European market with a stated goal of expansion across the pond.” Thursday's game was “another step” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/18). In N.Y., Steven Cotton writes, “Technically, this was a road game for the Knicks. But only technically.” There was “plenty of Knicks blue and orange in the stands, and there were numerous jerseys” with F Carmelo Anthony’s name on the back. Knicks coach Mike Woodson said, “We had great fan support here. It goes to show you that our sport is global, there’s no doubt about that. I thought the fans tonight were fantastic both ways, especially for us.” This was the third regular-season NBA game to be played in London, following the two ‘11 games between the Raptors and the Nets. But this game, “thanks to the presence of Anthony and the fact it was being broadcast live on British television, had a more vibrant feel than the other two.” When the NBA will “come back to England for another game is not yet known.” But the “energy that was coursing through the O2 Arena did suggest that basketball has some legs in England” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).
UNDER THE BIG TOP: The GUARDIAN’s Sean Ingle notes the game was “as much a spectacle as a contest; a giant slab of American sport transplanted into south-east London for one night only.” There were “shouts of ‘MVP MVP’” whenever Anthony sunk a basket. It was “pounding, exhilarating and relentlessly corporate.” During timeouts, fans “competed to win a pair of Adidas D Rose shoes or participated in the Foot Locker three-point contest for the chance to attend the All-Star Game in Houston” (GUARDIAN, 1/18). NBA Commissioner David Stern “claimed that the NBA ‘could not return often enough’ to their satellite base here at the O2.” In London, Oliver Brown notes the “only problem was that amid the unending din, whether from impromptu coaching clinics or Misha B’s shrill half-time show, it was often damnably difficult to tell whether there was still a basketball match taking place” (London TELEGRAPH, 1/18). NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver confirmed that the NBA “plans to play more preseason games next fall in Europe, including one in Manchester.” However, “no decision has yet been taken on whether London, or another city, will host another regular season contest next year.” Silver said, “In terms of the NBA and basketball, it's very encouraging what we've seen on this trip. It was encouraging when we were here at the Olympics. And with what we're seeing in the development of state of the art arenas.” Silver added, “The potential is there. It's a complex issue, as to whether the NBA should be expanding or if we should relocate franchises. Ultimately how much fans support there is. It's a long horizon in 20 years. The international opportunity is a huge one for the NBA” (ESPN.com, 1/17).
An independent inquiry of NBPA practices released on Thursday revealed Exec Dir Billy Hunter "did not engage in criminal acts involving embezzlement or theft of union funds," however, the "evidence paints an unflattering picture of Hunter and some of his practices," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. The inquiry was conducted by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP "at the request of the union." The "most disconcerting details" involve how Hunter procured his $3M-per-year contract in '10 with help from now-deceased friend and NBPA Counsel Gary Hall. It also shows "how the union failed to comply with its bylaws in approving it, and, when notified that the contract approval did not meet bylaws, how Hunter did nothing to rectify the problem." The report stated, "In our judgment, the facts do show that at times Mr. Hunter's actions were inconsistent with his fiduciary obligations to put the interests of the union above his personal interests. Further, Mr. Hunter did not properly manage conflicts of interest." The investigations "stem from a fallout" between Hunter and NBPA President Derek Fisher. Zillgitt writes All-Star Weekend in Houston "becomes more serious now," as the report "recommended that player representatives and the executive committee focus on Hunter's future with the NBPA" (USA TODAY, 1/18).
HUNTER BECOMES THE HUNTED: In N.Y., Ken Belson reports the investigation also "found that Hunter made decisions that 'call into question his stewardship of union resources' when he invested millions of dollars in a failing bank without disclosing that his son, Todd, was a director." Hunter also "pursued 'speculative' business ventures; bought luxury gifts with union funds, including a $22,000 watch" that he gave to Fisher. He additionally "spent about $28,000 on personal legal fees" for former National Basketball Retired Players Association exec Charles Smith. Hunter said that the union had "begun implementing a new anti-nepotism policy." Hunter: "Through the benefit of hindsight, as with any executive, there are always things that could have been done better. But on the major issue, I am pleased that this report has confirmed what I have always known and said, I did nothing illegal." The findings of the investigation "largely vindicate Fisher, a 17-year NBA veteran who was central in representing the union during the five-month lockout in 2011" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).
BEGINNING OF THE END? YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote the possible violation of the NBPA's constitution "raises questions about the legitimacy of Hunter's contract and his future." Sources said that Hunter signed his contract at an NBPA exec committee meeting in June '10, but he and Hall "never brought the deal to a vote of the 30 team player representatives for approval." Three player reps at the team rep meeting on June 24 said that the issue of Hunter's contract was "never brought for a vote -- nor its existence ever broached" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/17). Wojnarowski wrote, "Several prominent player agents reacted to the revelations on Hunter's unapproved contract and the findings of the Paul-Weiss report with a renewed effort to oust Hunter" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/17).
RISKY BUSINESS: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote under the header, "The Evidence Speaks For Itself: Union Head Hunter Has To Go." In a report that "could not have been more scathing, more detailed, more forthright, more astonishing, it is apparent beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hunter's 16-year reign ... should be over." While the union's "numerous business entanglements with Hunter's family members was not even the headline in this exhaustive report, the probe found that the practice extended beyond family members to what it called 'cronyism' involving numerous Hunter friends." The report at times "reads like it has to be fiction, like the script of an Oliver Stone movie." There were "signs Thursday of an awakening among the union membership." One player who reviewed the report said, "It speaks for itself" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/17).
The Cardinals Thursday filled the final coaching vacancy in the NFL when it hired Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, meaning no minorities filled the eight openings that became available since the end of the regular season (THE DAILY). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted the Rooney Rule “only requires that just one minority candidate per GM and coaching vacancy be interviewed," and there is "no mandate that anyone be hired." However, the "reality is right now in the NFL there are four minority head coaches." Florio: "Ten years ago when this first became an issue for the league, there were two minority coaches. So we haven’t seen a ton of progress." One issue is the fact there are not "enough minority coaches who are calling plays on offense." Florio: "If we see this rush for offensive coaches and there are very, very few minority coaches who are calling plays, then that pipeline just doesn’t have minority coaches in it to get those opportunities to become head coaches." NBC Sports Network’s Amani Toomer said he “likes the process” of the Rooney Rule by “getting in the door, sitting and doing these interviews.” However, it “needs to be extended to offensive coordinators” (“Pro Football Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 1/17). ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes the lack of minority hirings “is an issue that has gotten a lot of attention in the league office.” Schefter: “Some people might not like hearing it, some people might like hearing it, but the league has definitely noticed this. The Fritz Pollard Alliance definitely has noticed this and coaches around the league have noticed it. ... I know a lot of people around the league are noticing this issue and are going to be addressing this issue” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 1/18).