Lakers G Kobe Bryant yesterday said that it is “time for the NBA’s stars to take a stronger role as players deliberate the fate” of suspended NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter and the “direction of the union,” according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. Bryant "included himself in that mandate." He added that "it was an issue he had been discussing" with Clipper G Chris Paul. Bryant said the NBPA "looks like a mess." He added, "We might want to grab the bull by its horns, so to speak, and lead the charge a little bit.” Beck noted Paul during the '12 NBA lockout was the “only All-Star on the union’s executive committee, which was otherwise stocked with bench players and players out of the league.” The committee has since “lapsed into virtual irrelevance, with seven of the nine seats open.” Meanwhile, at least 11 teams are "believed to be strongly in favor of firing Hunter," with 16 votes needed to remove him. Lakers G and player rep Steve Blake said that the team had “not yet held a vote to determine its position.” But Beck writes given NBPA President Derek Fisher’s "long tenure with the Lakers, and his close relationship with Bryant, it is considered certain that the Lakers will stand with him” (NYTIMES.com, 2/5). Hornets G and NBPA VP Roger Mason Jr. indicated that Hunter’s future “is likely to be decided" at the NBAPA's annual meeting on Feb. 16. Mason said, "Absolutely, there has to be a vote by the players. It’s a majority type situation and that’s the way it should be. Everybody is part of our league and a part of this union" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/6). Former NBAer Pat Garrity said that it is “hard to see" how Hunter will keep his job. Garrity said, “If this was any CEO of a decent-sized organization, would they be able to survive this? I just don’t see how they would. ... Four years ago, there was enough stuff to raise questions about judgment and ethics. It’s disappointing that it took another level of egregiousness for people to start taking notice” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/5).
NEXT MAN UP?In Toronto, Kevin McGran cites a source as saying that NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr is “not going for the trifecta -- heading up a third sports union -- despite reports linking him to the NBA” (TORONTO STAR, 2/6). A source said, "Don is very happy in his current role and has absolutely no plans to leave the NHLPA. In the future, should the basketball players seek his guidance due to his vast sports union experience, there is little doubt Don would provide that, but he won't be leaving his position at the NHLPA" (Liz Mullen, Staff Writer). YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski cited sources as saying that ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones “will be a target should a change be made” atop the NBPA. The sources said that the union will “use an executive search firm to coordinate the process.” President Obama has been “working to have Jones, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, confirmed as the full-time ATF director” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/5).
It is "highly likely, just short of a foregone conclusion," that the NHL will be "shutting down 16 days in the middle of next season to allow its players to participate" in the '14 Sochi Games, according to Bob McKenzie of TSN. It is not a foregone conclusion because the NHL and the NHLPA are "looking for a better deal" from the IIHF and the IOC "in terms of player participation for the Olympics." The better deal does not concern monitary reasons, but rather "better access to the players -- the use of images, the use of video, as well as accommodation and tickets." There will be "a meeting next week between the IOC, the IIHF, the NHL and the NHLPA and it's a united front for the most part -- NHL and NHLPA -- trying to get this better deal" (TSN.ca, 2/5). IIHF President Rene Fasel in an interview with Olympics-themed publication Around The Rings said that he is "confident that NHL players will participate" in Sochi. A decision is expected this spring (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 2/5). The NHL still has not committed to participate in the Olympics, but NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus expressed optimism that it would show up. He said that Fasel and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman were expected to meet in the coming week (THE DAILY).
NASCAR, Ford, General Motors and Toyota execs yesterday were in Detroit to "kick off a nine-day, multi-city media blitz so fans can see the differences" in the automakers' versions of the new Gen-6 Sprint Cup Series cars, according to Don Coble of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Car companies "hope to revive the 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday' maxim that used to be the backbone to their business." Ford Racing Dir Jamie Allison said, "Roughly 40 percent of those who intend to buy cars say they are a motorsports fan. ... To add the relevancy of our cars looking like the cars they own adds that emotional connection we wanted. It brings back the magic." Coble notes the NASCAR media tour includes reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski's visit today at ESPN HQs in Bristol, Conn., while team owner Michael Waltrip will "meet the public" tomorrow in N.Y., and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. will "stop at several network outlets" in N.Y. on Friday. The tour also will "make stops" at Newark, N.J., Arlington, Va., Atlanta and Jacksonville next Tuesday "before arriving" at Daytona Int'l Speedway next Wednesday (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/6).
STYLE & SUBSTANCE: In Detroit, David Goricki notes NASCAR President Mike Helton is hoping the new Gen-6 car "adds the showroom style to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series." The new car "showcases manufacturer-unique body panels placed on existing chassis, enhanced body designs that better resembles the cars found in showrooms across the U.S., and a design that puts the 'stock' back to stock car racing." Helton said, "(We also want to) build the identity of a driver with that race car, so the name across the top of the windshield is something that's out there" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/6). In South Carolina, Bob Spear writes "vibes remain good" ahead of the Gen-6 car's debut at the Feb. 24 Daytona 500. Guarded optimism "surrounds the cast, yet the stock-car racing fraternity won’t know -- really know -- until the curtain rises and a couple of performances provide concrete answers." Spear: "Is the ballyhooed Generation 6 car the antidote to dull racing, shrinking attendance and lower television ratings?" (Columbia STATE, 2/6).