Source: USA TODAY
For the first time since Billy Hunter filed his lawsuit against the National Basketball Players Association and Derek Fisher, he revealed on Thursday in court documents who called during the 2011 lockout and told him to accept a 50-50 deal with the NBA because a side deal already been reached.
It was Kobe Bryant, according to a document Hunter filed on Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In the complaint filed on May 16, the player is referred to as Player No. 1.
Everyone now knows that player is Bryant, according to Hunter.
In Hunter’s recent filing, he states, “Late in the evening before the [October 28, 2011] Waldorf Astoria meeting, I was already in bed for the night when my phone rang. The caller identified himself as the ‘Black Mamba.’ I knew it was Kobe Bryant, a superstar player for the Los Angeles Lakers and the highest paid player in the NBA. He told me that his agent, Robert Pelinka, who was also known to me, was on the call with him. I knew that Bryant and Fisher were friends and former teammates and shared an agent.
“Prior to this late-night phone call, Bryant had publicly supported the union’s negotiating position. On the phone call, Bryant told me to agree to the new CBA at a 50-50 share of BRI (basketball-related income), saying, ‘I know that tomorrow is a big day. You can put this thing to bed. Do the deal,’ and also telling me, ‘I got your back.’ What Bryant and Pelinka were telling me is that a 50-50 deal had already been completed behind my back.”
Hunter said he confronted Fisher, then the president of the executive committee comprised of players who represented NBA players during the lockout. According to the declaration filed Thursday, Hunter said, “I asked him whether he had been secretly negotiating directly with the owners. … Fisher did not deny the existence of the secret negotiations with NBA owners, but denied having had a role in them. Fisher said that it was Bryant and Pelinka who had engaged in secret negotiations with NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, adding that they had ‘thrown (Fisher) under the bus.’ “
Hunter, who was ousted as executive director of the NBPA at All-Star weekend in February, believes Fisher lied to him and concluded Fisher “had, in fact, been negotiating with the owners himself.”
Hunter is suing the union, Fisher and Jamie Wior for compensation and punitive damages. The union was paying Hunter $3 million a year, and Hunter’s contract originally ran through June 30, 2015.
However, the validity of that contract remains in question. An independent investigation into union practices conducted by the high-powered law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison – which is also investigating the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin situation with the Miami Dolphins – concluded that Hunter’s contract was never properly approved.
Hunter believes his contract was approved, and also on Wednesday, Hunter received support from former executive committee members Mo Evans, Etan Thomas and Theo Ratliff – all of him signed court declarations stating they believed Hunter’s contract was valid.
“Given everything I know about Mr. Hunter’s service to the union and the benefit the union received from Mr. Hunter’s work, the union’s current position that Mr. Hunter does not have a valid employment contract is outrageous,” Ratliff said.
Evans said, “Fisher spoke up in support of Mr. Hunter’s contract extension and said that Mr. Hunter deserved a new contract. There was universal support on the Executive Committee for the contract extension. In fact, no member of the Executive Committee disagreed with the decision to extend Mr. Hunter’s contract. I was never informed at that time that the contract extension needed to be ratified by another group of NBA players. Mr. Hunter was treated as if his contract was final and binding.”
The NBPA has tried to move on, electing Chris Paul its new president and named a new executive committee in August. The union is also searching for a new executive director and wants to at least have a small field of candidates by All-Star weekend in February. To that end, union officials are meeting with teams and naming new team representatives so that the union can vote for a new executive director when the time comes.
However, the fallout from the 2011 lockout won’t go away. Hunter’s lawsuit is active (no court date set), and Joseph Lombardo of Prim Capital pled guilty in mid-November to mail fraud and conspiracy to obstruct a grand jury investigation in connection with an attempt to defraud the NBPA. Hunter’s son, Todd, had worked for Prim, which managed a portion of the union’s assets. Carolyn Kaufman, also of Prim, faces similar charges and is scheduled to stand trial starting on Dec. 2.
THE Q&A: Derek Fisher on retirement, future
Derek Fisher hasn’t changed his mind.
This is the still his swan song, the final season of a storied career in which he won five championships, broke the hearts of so many opposing fanbases with clutch postseason shots and earned his status as one of the great role players of his time. Fisher — the 39-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder point guard who in recent years made far more noise as the former role as president of the players union than he did with his play — is ready to stop diving for loose balls and instead dive into family life again.
In a recent chat with USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick, Fisher – who announced his plans to retire in July – discussed his victory lap and looked ahead to what’s next.
Q. So, is this still it?
A. Yeah, this is the final run. I physically feel I could play more years, but trying to figure out from year to year whether or not (his wife and four kids, who live in Los Angeles) should all move, and my kids (is tough). It’s been a great enough experience to say that now it’s time for them to come first.
Q. So are you in a reflective state for the entire season now? That has to be an interesting experience when you’ve already made up your mind that this is it and may be more inclined to smell the roses.
A. For sure. Not too much, because you have to make sure you keep that edge that you keep as a player. But definitely in that state of mind where you’re just appreciating everything more and valuing the relationships and the time with the guys, and all those little things.
Q. You always hear about the adrenaline and how athletes struggle when it’s gone. That worry you at all?
A. That’s going to be tough. Since I was six years old, basketball has been a big focal point. But I think that with things that I’ve done up until now, as well as things that I’m thinking about doing after (the playing career ends), I’m consciously taking steps to mitigate that impact, that void that basketball will leave. (Just as) playing basketball requires an effort and work, I’ll have to work at not playing basketball. I’m trying to do my best, but I’m sure there will be days when I wish I was still out there.
Q. So what’s next? You’ve always been one of the most well-rounded and smartest guys around. Any solid plans yet?
A. No. I’m for sure that quality of life is going to be important to me, just being able to spend more time with my kids and go to school events and soccer games. That will probably limit some of my options initially, but I’m not closing anything off (in terms of opportunities). There’s a way to make everything work, so we’ll see. Hopefully on the court can be a great ending to the story. That’s what I’m shooting for.
DIPLOMACY: Vogel says Knicks can turn it around
Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel has a refreshing penchant for unwavering honesty — such as last spring when Vogel said the Miami Heat had a more intelligent offensive strategy for Pacers center Roy Hibbert than the New York Knicks.
But when given the chance to trump his team’s superiority over the Knicks hours before his team beat the Knicks in overtime at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, Vogel chose Eastern Conference diplomacy.
Asked if he felt the Pacers have separated themselves from the Knicks this season, Vogel said, “Not at all. I feel like we’ve gotten better. There’s no question about that. … I don’t feel like we’ve separated from them at all.”
Vogel quickly pointed out the Pacers were 3-6 last season but ended up in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
“They’re capable of turning their season around. They’re managing injuries,” Vogel said.
When the Pacers were struggling last season, Vogel said it was on the offensive end, adjusting to life without injured forward Danny Granger.
“We had to have a shift in philosophy to make up for – much like the Knicks are adjusting to life without Tyson Chandler – life without Danny Granger. There’s an adjustment period involved with that. That’s what it was at that time.”
Forward Paul George emerged, and the Pacers couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
RECORD WATCH: Korver nears three-point mark
Atlanta Hawks guard-forward Kyle Korver is close to tying and breaking Dana Barros’ record for games played with at least one made three-pointer.
Korver has made a three-pointer in 85 consecutive games, four short of Barros’ record set in the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. He can tie the record Wednesday in a road game against the Houston Rockets and break the record Friday at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry had a 53-game streak with at least one made three-pointer, but it ended on March 15 last season when he went 0-for-5 against the Chicago Bulls.
DAILY-DOUBLE: This one is unfortunate
The Utah Jazz, 1-12 headed into Friday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, are last in the league in two important categories – offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency. The Jazz are scoring a league-worst 92.8 points per 100 possessions and allowing a league-worst 106.1 points per 100 possessions.
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