Thunder G and NBPA President Derek Fisher “fired back at the union's leadership pushing for his resignation on Friday night,” as he reiterated that he “wouldn’t resign and called for peers in the league to stand and fight with him,” according to Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter has “rallied the eight-player executive committee to call for Fisher’s resignation,” but they “failed Friday in hopes of organizing a conference call among the league’s player representatives to call for Fisher’s ouster.” Fisher in an e-mail to players wrote: “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.” He continued: “The allegations that are now being directed at me are defamatory. But I urge our members to order an independent review beginning immediately and that will be proven along with finding out definitively if there are any issues with the NBPA's business practices and finances.” Wojnarowski noted Fisher “has been hearing from players and teams offering support and encouragement.” The NBPA “issued a statement on Friday, explaining why Hunter and the executive committee want Fisher out as president.” The statement read in part: ''The executive committee based its decision on numerous instances over the past six months, where Fisher engaged in conduct detrimental to the union, including acting in contravention of the players' best interests during collective bargaining, declining to follow the NBPA Constitution, and failing to uphold the duties of the Union President.'' Hunter over the past several days “has launched an all-out assault through the eight-man executive committee to push out Fisher,” after Hunter last week “successfully thwarted an audit of the union’s business and financial practices that Fisher pitched to the executive committee.” Sources said that Hunter “had the union's executive committee vote to seek Fisher's resignation, but Fisher refused to step down and has been working to gather a coalition of players to challenge Hunter’s business and financial practices” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/20).
WHO'S ON DECK? ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported the Exec Committee wants to “bring in Chris Paul … as the new president.” Fisher “doesn’t want to walk away because he feels like his name has been smeared.” Still, union sources said that if Fisher “thinks he’s being smeared now, the worst is yet to come if he doesn’t walk away peacefully” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/21). Wizards G and NBPA VP Maurice Evans yesterday said that Paul “would have to be nominated and elected.” USA TODAY’s Jeff Zillgitt notes until that happens, Celtics G and Exec Committee VP Keyon Dooling “would be interim president” (USA TODAY, 4/23). Evans on Friday said, “It’s been a series of calls, starting last week with Derek trying to initiate a business review and audit of the union. But he did that without the consent of the board, and no one player, even the president, has more responsibility or power than the other players.” He added, “We don’t feel like he’s given Billy that proper respect. We welcomed him to a call where he could come and defend himself and whatever allegations he had or concerns for the union, we would address them at that time, because a lot of players had questions of him as well, and he refused to come on the call.” Evans continued, "During that call, all of us asked Billy about misappropriation of funds, about nepotism, strategy, lockout strategy, etc. … As far as the nepotism and the misallocation of funds and any other supposed, alleged questions, Billy answered those questions to our satisfaction, was very open and candid with us, and we were satisfied, and again, the players were disappointed because Derek has yet to address us, the players” (WASHINGTON EXAMINER, 4/21). But Lakers G Kobe Bryant said, "With Derek, if guys don't want him in there, there's really not much you can do about that. But every organization does an audit every now and then. I don't see anything wrong with doing an independent audit. It's not that big of a deal just to get it done" (LATIMES.com, 4/21).
LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE: SI.com’s Sam Amick wrote Fisher on Friday night “raised a fair question that he's hoping will be answered in the coming weeks: Why would he go to all this trouble … without a good reason?” Fisher: "If this was just about me, that's what I would do. I would just concentrate on basketball. But because this is bigger than me, this is bigger than any one person. It's really about all players and what's best for our guys, then I'm willing to take the hits and some of the scrutiny that will come with some of the decisions I make." Amick noted Fisher's allegations range from “misappropriation of funds to the way union decisions were handled during the lockout to Hunter being guilty of nepotism.” While Hunter's backers are “quick to point out that nepotism exists throughout the NBA, his critics see it as excessive in his case.” Hunter’s daughter, Robyn, and daughter-in-law, Megan Inaba, are “on the NBPA's staff, while his son, Todd, of Prim Capital Corp in Cleveland, has been retained to run the NBPA's Players Financial Awareness Program and his daughter, Alexis, was used as outside counsel during the lockout.” Amick wrote while Fisher and Hunter “had a falling out during the lockout that almost stayed quiet until the end, Fisher insists this isn't about them” (SI.com, 4/21).
LONG TIME COMING? CBSSPORTS.com’s Ken Berger cited sources as saying that “seeds for this rift were planted before the lockout even began,” as Fisher began to “suspect early last summer that something was rotten in Harlem, the home base of the NBPA.” Sources said that Fisher began to “ask questions about [the] union's finances and business dealings,” and he was “perhaps fueled by his own powers of deduction or helped along by the connecting of dots by operatives who have long been gunning” for Hunter. The “discomfort between Hunter and Fisher did not subside,” and through the “many, many months of torturous bargaining sessions ... the rift between Hunter and Fisher widened.” Berger noted Fisher's fellow committee members “believe he's gone rogue with a vendetta against Hunter, and one of them said Fisher has been at best an absentee president since the lockout ended.” Berger: “Whether Fisher is a brave whistle blower in the face of corruption or a player with an axe to grind whose power has been usurped by those who've been targeting Hunter for years should be left to those with real law degrees. … But I do know this: The players and their union have fallen into the very trap the owners have come to expect and relish” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/21).
FIRST THINGS FIRST: In Oklahoma City, Darnell Mayberry wrote the Thunder is “now drawing attention for the wrong reasons” in the wake of Fisher's “budding battle” with the NBPA. The playoffs start in less than a week, and "rather than being able to concentrate on shoring up turnovers and rebounding, Fisher and his teammates are now being flooded with questions about the players association calling for Fisher's resignation as president.” The public spat between Fisher and the NBPA “couldn't have come at a worse time.” Mayberry wrote, "The question Thunder fans are, and should be, asking is how much will the infighting impact Fisher and the team?” Fisher said, “However much I let it. I'm still a basketball player. That's my profession. Even as president of the players association, we always respect the fact that we're players first” (OKLAHOMAN, 4/21).