Billy Hunter Expects To Stay On As NBPA Boss Through End Of Contract
NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter "has no plans of stepping down and wants to continue his job through the life of his contract," according to Gary Washburn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Hunter said, "I’ve got like five years remaining on my contract, and that probably will be enough." There has been "speculation that Hunter would no longer serve as executive director" after he received his "share of criticism from players and agents during the intense labor negotiations that resulted in a lockout that delayed the start of this season." But Hunter said, "I think (criticism is) just part of the process and it can’t be avoided. We had the same issue in '98 and that a lot of our guys didn’t follow it and a lot of times they react because someone else is giving them misinformation and they really don’t understand the deal." He added, "I never did (believe there would be no season), I knew there would be a deal" (BOSTON.com, 12/21). Hunter said of "remaining stubborn" during the 149-day lockout, "We had no choice, we had to do it. Keep in mind, the union is comprised of a diverse group of 450 players, so depending on who you talked to at any given moment, the players had different ideas and reactions of how you should play it. We got to the place where the owners thought they had us cornered and that we had to take the deal, and we just said no way." Hunter said that the union "was committed to pursuing its two class-action lawsuits, filed in San Francisco and Minneapolis, until learning that each was assigned to what the union perceived to be a conservative labor judge, and that encouraged the union to restart negotiations on a deal that likely saved both sides millions of dollars in legal costs, and saved the sport from further embarrassment." He said that "one of his goals was to preserve the NBA middle class, and so far it is getting paid." Hunter: "Guys will continue to earn millions of dollars and be the highest-paid group of athletes on the globe, and that’s what we’ve historically been. What we said was we would not agree to any deal where players would take a cut, and they haven’t taken a cut" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/22).
STAYING OVERSEAS: ESPN.com's Chris Broussard noted former Nuggets F J.R. Smith "would like nothing more than to follow Kenyon Martin out of China and back" to the U.S. However, a source said that "we shouldn't expect other NBA players -- Smith, Wilson Chandler or Aaron Brooks -- to follow Martin's example and make an early exit from the Chinese Basketball Association." All the NBA players who signed to play in China during the lockout "did so with the understanding and contractual obligation to stay throughout the entire CBA season." There "has been talk that NBA players can buy out of their contracts for $500,000, but even that sum isn't going to move CBA officials to clear guys to play in the NBA" (ESPN.com, 12/21).