The NBA players’ fate rests in the hands of Billy Hunter, who is currently listening to advice from NBA agents, who represent clients who won’t get paid during a lockout (escrow checks notwithstanding), who are also represented by Union president and vice president, Derek Fisher and Maurice Evans, who will both likely be retired for most of the new collective bargaining agreement.
I hope the players trust their representatives. Because it’s possible that everyone has his own agenda.
Hunter decided against decertifying the union, which Sam Amick writes would have been a power move on July 1 when the union originally considered it. But if the union had decertified, like the NFL players association did, Hunter would not have received his salary. Shane Battier, one of the more intelligent and well-read NBA players, suggested that Hunter should forego his salary during the NBA lockout. Hunter still gets paid, even though the players don’t (again, escrow checks notwithstanding).
The agents, meanwhile, don’t make any money from their clients during the NBA lockout unless a client signs a deal with an endorsement company, so of course they would like a lockout resolution. They also would like a fair resolution so that when basketball does return, their clients — and in effect, the agents too — can make as much money as possible. The agents have the players in their ears, some of whom probably want paychecks as soon as possible, others who probably want the best deal possible no matter how long the wait.
The player Union heads have millions of reasons to end this lockout quickly. Fisher is 37 years old. He has two years left on what will likely be the final contract of his career. If the lockout causes the NBA to miss a full season, he will lose one-half of the remaining NBA salary owed to him. Maybe he has saved enough money in his career that he’s comfortable losing an entire year’s worth of paychecks. Maybe not. Evans isn’t quite as old as Fisher, but at 32 years old, he’s still reaching the tail end of his career. He’s currently a free agent, meaning he likely has one more NBA contract left. If he’s looking to save for his post-NBA days, every year counts.
I’m not saying the Union heads are necessarily out for their own interests. For all I know, Derek Fisher is a flopping, clutch-shooting Mother Theresa and Billy Hunter is Black Jesus. But the players are relying on a lot of people who have a lot of reasons to screw them over, or at least a lot of reasons to guide them in a slightly wrong direction. The players obviously chose Hunter, Evans and Fisher as their representatives for a reason — the players believed that trio to be trustworthy and capable of looking out for the players’ best interests.
But according to two separate reports, the players and agents are now second-guessing Hunter. Why didn’t he decertify? How many concessions are the players going to make? Why is Billy Hunter the only executive director of the NBPA ever to lead his charges to a work stoppage, and can he stand toe-to-toe with the fire-breathing, billy club-swinging David Stern?
Other than rumblings about Hunter, reports about the labor talks have been surprisingly sunny. The sides are beginning to meet far more frequently and Hunter even admitted there should be enough time to make a deal. But if the negotiations falter at all in the coming weeks, the players could take a hard look at their representatives.
Is Billy Hunter the man to lead them? And is every representative interested in the proper motives?