Commentary

Paul ready to run point for NBPA

Updated: August 23, 2013, 7:02 PM ET
By J.A. Adande | ESPN.com

Chris Paul should have made one sales pitch in his bid to become president of the NBA players' union -- the same reason the union should be happy he was selected for the job Wednesday.

Look at what he's done for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Working with an owner who previously had one of the worst reputations in sports, Paul has given the Clippers the "go get 'em" feel of a well-funded Internet startup.

Paul has been bossy, Paul has usually gotten his way … and the Clippers are better for it. They're coming off the best regular season in franchise history, and expectations are even higher for 2013-14 after owner Donald Sterling signed off on sending a first-round pick to the Boston Celtics for the services of coach Doc Rivers, authorizing a $7 million per-year contract to boot.

If Paul can pull that off while working with Sterling, imagine what he can accomplish while dealing with the league's ownership group as a whole.

Of course, Paul enjoys leverage with the Clippers that the players can't wield over the NBA: He has the threat of leaving as a free agent. The owners know the players aren't going to bolt en masse to play in China and Europe if they don't get their way during the next labor negotiation.

But the owners also know it's the big names who make up a disproportionate part of the NBA's existence, and Paul's ascension to president of the National Basketball Players Association signals a level of commitment to the union by prominent players that hasn't existed in recent years.

"It's huge," said Roger Mason Jr., who had sought the presidency but quickly fell in line in support of Paul, and was elected first vice president.

"He was a part of the executive committee, but it's different. And now he'll be able to walk into the room along with ... the other executive committee members and really represent the face of our league. So I think it's important."

There's some concern within the union and among agents that a superstar such as Paul might only be a figurehead and won't have the time or inclination to be involved with all of the union's small details. LeBron James, for example, wasn't at the union meetings in Las Vegas this week because he was shooting a commercial (although he was said to be in communication with players who were there).

To that end, there's always the first step of leadership: delegation. Throughout a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Paul stressed teamwork, sticking true to his nature as a point guard.

"It's not about me," Paul said. "It's not about the president or first vice president or any one person. It's about the players as a whole, the body."

He added later: "I wouldn't have took this role, this job on, if it was going to be me doing it alone. The other guys on the executive committee are just as important as I am."

Said Mason: "Chris told me I'm going to be the engine. Between myself and James Jones [the union's secretary treasurer], we're the two guys that, we've been living this every day. He's going to lean on us, he's going to lean on the rest of the executive committee."

There's so much work to be done. It's telling that Paul called this "a great opportunity for us to grow and build … to rebuild."

Which is another way of saying things are currently messy. At their meeting during All-Star Weekend last season, the players ousted Billy Hunter as executive director after allegations of nepotism and misuse of funds. Hunter is suing the union for wrongful termination, and he's suing former union president Derek Fisher and Fisher's assistant for defamation. So, in addition, the players need to select a new executive director.

The union's in no rush. It's having Deloitte Financial Advisory Services examine the union's structure and will make the necessary changes, which include expanding staff and adding new departments such as human resources and information technology.

"This business is big," Mason said. "We shouldn't run as a mom-and-pop organization. Now we're going to be building it out from the ground out."

It starts with the involvement of the players, and if for nothing else, there's the symbolism that one of the biggest names has taken on a bigger role.

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