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Monday, July 28, 2014
Agents unhappy with NBPA finalists

By Brian Windhorst, Ramona Shelburne, Marc Stein
ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- Even as the National Basketball Players Association is holding a meeting to elect a new executive director, top agents are urging their clients not to vote and pushing for other candidates to be considered, multiple sources told ESPN.com.

The players gathered at a hotel Monday to hear presentations from three finalists: Washington attorneys Michele Roberts and Dean Garfield and veteran Dallas Mavericks executive Terdema Ussery. The three were selected through an exhaustive process that has stretched on nearly 18 months after the firing of former union head Billy Hunter. But earlier in the day, prominent agents held a conference call in which they expressed their displeasure with the choices to the players' executive committee and urged that the finalist pool be expanded.

One agent told ESPN.com  the situation is "a joke." Another said "none of these candidates are the right candidate."

Many veteran agents, sources say, are concerned that the group of three finalists includes two lawyers (Roberts and Garfield) with no institutional knowledge of the NBA's inner workings and a third (Ussery) who has a longstanding relationship with former NBA commissioner David Stern from working in the Mavericks' front office for nearly two decades.

In a memo last week to players throughout the league, which was obtained by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, NBPA officials outlined the 45-minute presentations scheduled for Monday afternoon in Las Vegas for each of the three finalists, with a formal vote to be conducted by the American Arbitration Association some 90 minutes after the last presentation.

But sources briefed on Monday's behind-closed-doors discussions told ESPN.com that some of the players gathered were, in consultation with their agents, urging union leaders Monday night to delay the vote and broaden the search again, despite that the NBPA already has gone so long without a replacement for the ousted Hunter.

Amid a rising perception that the owners trounced the players during the latest, Hunter-led labor negotiations, from July through December 2011, sources told Stein some agents were rankled that the NBPA's memo also outlined plans for a post-vote party Monday night at a nightclub in Vegas, as opposed to focusing on the serious nature of the task at hand.

In an interview with USA Today published Monday, union secretary-treasurer James Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers dismissed suggestions that the field of finalists was hastily assembled and told the newspaper the union contacted 300 potential candidates to replace Hunter and interviewed 70.

But questions about that effort, led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, were raised around the league Friday night when word began to spread that he was abruptly cutting ties with the union.

According to union bylaws, one of the three finalists needs a two-thirds majority from the NBPA's executive committee and team player representatives -- 25 votes total -- to be installed as the new executive director. It was unclear, as of 9 p.m. ET Monday, whether the vote scheduled for 11 p.m. would actually take place.

If the vote is delayed further, it would be the second significant interruption to the process in the past six months. The NBPA presented two finalists -- David White of the Screen Actors Guild and Roberts -- at All-Star Weekend in February in New Orleans but restarted the search process and brought in Johnson to lead the effort after numerous players and agents voiced concerns then.

"We heard their requests to slow the process down, make it more inclusive, hear what players and agents had to say, retired players as well, and enlist the help of qualified professionals to get different perspectives," Jones told USA Today. "Here we stand months later with candidates who the search committee has provided us and who we all feel good and excited about it."

Longtime NBPA attorney Ron Klempner, known for his collective bargaining agreement expertise, has served as the union's acting executive director since Hunter's ouster at the 2013 All-Star Game in Houston.

Roberts, who made a presentation to the players in February over All-Star Weekend, is a well-respected litigation specialist. Garfield is the CEO of a technology company and has held high-ranking positions at the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America. Ussery, who also has a law degree, is the longtime president of the Mavericks after a career as an executive with Nike.