Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association, should consider opening his emergency players’ meeting in Los Angeles on Friday by reminding himself and sidekick Derek Fisher of who is actually paid $2.6 million to run the union.
It’s not Derek Fisher, or the role-playing point guard’s mini-Maverick Carter, personal assistant Jamie Wior.
It’s Billy Hunter, the 68-year-old lawyer with the diverse (repped MC Hammer), impressive (freed Patty Hearst as U.S. Attorney) and long resume (executive director since 1996). He is the man with the necessary intellect, expertise and experience to take on NBA commissioner David Stern. Hunter has done it before. He helped create a salary system the owners now say heavily favors the players.
If Hunter is too old, too tired, too disinterested, too beaten down by the immaturity of the players he represents to stand up to Stern, then Billy should give the so-called “power agents” what they want and step aside.
I like and respect Billy. I like and respect Fish.
But Stern and his control-the-debate mouthpiece (TV partner ESPN) and the NBA power agents and their bully-Billy Hunter mouthpiece (Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski) are putting clown suits on Billy and Fish on a daily basis. Billy has given Fish way too much freedom. Nearly every time I watch an ESPN update about the NBA lockout, I see footage of Stern offering a comment followed by player president Derek Fisher putting his spin on the negotiations.
Fish is suited and booted, looking like he just removed sunglasses, stepped off a New York runway and is cooling off from a long negotiating session with John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and President Obama.
Oh, Fish looks the part. Too bad he’s playing a role he is clearly not ready for. He’s a No. 2, a role player, a Capo paid to take the temperature of street soldiers and deliver intel to the Don.
You remember in Godfather I when Don Corleone scolded Sonny for speaking too freely in front of Sollozzo and Sonny’s loose lips wound up getting Don Corleone capped?
Fish = Sonny Corleone. And Hunter is getting capped.
Fish and his female mini-Maverick are out of control. They formulated and launched the childish “Let us play” Twitter campaign that Kenyon Martin turned ugly – he allegedly wished a “full-blown AIDs” death on his Twitter “haters” – in a matter of hours. It took even less time for the power agents’ mouthpiece to pounce. Wojnarowski filed a column shredding Hunter, Fisher and a wrongly accused, unnamed public-relations firm for the ploy. Maybe out of fear that the super-powerful Wasserman Group – the firm that backs agent Arn Tellem – wouldn’t want its name in the streets, Woj tossed rose petals at the feet of one union employee, Dan Wasserman, a PR flack with no ties to the Wasserman Group.
Fish and Jamie Wior, a personal employee of Fisher’s, deserve the ridicule.
Yes, you can occupy Wall Street using Twitter. And you can overthrow a third-world dictator using Twitter. But, in America, you are never going to convince a group of largely billionaire white men to give a group of largely millionaire black men several hundred more million dollars over Twitter. Not happening.
This is grown-folks business. Someone needs to tell Fish to stand back and let grown folks handle this. Do you see David Stern letting his No. 2, Adam Silver, play the front man on these negotiations? Like him or not, Stern is a grown man doing what grown men do when millions of dollars are stake. He’s out in the streets running his corners. Meanwhile, Fish is getting “rainmade.” He’s playing away games. He’s finding out he’s not as smart as he thinks he is and maybe he’s not hard enough for Stern’s streets.
If you can’t understand the last three or four sentences, watch my favorite TV show “The Wire” and it will all make sense. If you want a quick, Whitlock family/Masterpiece Lounge translation: Fish got brand new.
He’s full of himself. I suspected it a couple of weeks ago when a letter Fisher personally wrote to the players somehow got leaked to Sports Illustrated. The pro-union letter put Fish in a wonderful light. He preached solidarity and anti-decertification. It was a good look … for Fish.
Billy Hunter’s name was nowhere on the letter. The letter wasn’t written on Players Association letterhead. Just like the Twitter campaign, Hunter knew nothing about the letter.
It’s time to reel Fisher back in. He’s not Isiah Thomas, an NBA legend with connections from the streets to the highest level of government. Like him or not, as player president in the 1980s and 1990s, Isiah was a worthy adversary for Stern. Isiah was a formidable No. 2 for then-executive director Charles Grantham.
Fisher is not that guy. He’s had a tremendous NBA career for a role player. But he doesn’t command the kind of respect and fear on the court or off that makes him fit for the role he’s playing now. He’s Stringer Bell, slick and polished. Stern is Marlo Stanfield.
The question is: Can Billy Hunter channel Avon Barksdale again? Is Hunter a negotiating gangster who still wants to hear his name ring out in the streets? Or has 15 years in the job turned Hunter into Dennis “Cutty” Wise, a former soldier who no longer has the heart to battle Marlo, Chris and Snoop?
To get what they’ve earned, the players union might have to fight on a lie, the myth that they’re prepared to start their own league. The hint of a “New Day Co-op” could save the union. Maybe Hunter really needs to channel Prop Joe and realize Fisher is acting like Cheese Wagstaff before it’s too late.