LAS VEGAS — Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul was elected president of the NBA players’ association Wednesday, replacing Derek Fisher and giving the reeling organization some much-needed star power.
The vote by NBA player representatives came six months after the union fired Billy Hunter as executive director, a position that remains vacant and follows about 18 months of in-fighting and drama that occurred during the negotiations for the latest collective bargaining agreement. Hunter countered with a wrongful-termination lawsuit in May, accusing Fisher of conspiring with NBA officials during the 2011 lockout.
“It’s not about me as president or the first vice president, it’s about the players as a whole,” Paul said in a conference call on Wednesday night.
As diplomatic as Paul wanted to be, there was still a feeling among many players and observers that putting a big name in the big chair would help galvanize the union. Paul, a six-time All-Star, is the first marquee player to hold the top spot in the union since Patrick Ewing’s run ended in 2001. Role players Michael Curry, Antonio Davis and Fisher followed Ewing.
“That wasn’t a requirement, but I think it gives us a little more oomph, I guess, having somebody like him wanting to step up and take on that role,” Charlotte Bobcats forward Anthony Tolliver said in a phone interview. “It means a lot.”
Paul served as a vice president for the last four years, so he has intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the union, and the turmoil that engulfed it recently.
“It was something I saw as a challenge, something I knew I’d be able to handle,” Paul said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity, a lot of responsibility comes with this position but I’m very fortunate to have an outstanding of committee guys. The past couple of days have been outstanding, the dialogue we’ve had as an executive committee also with the players that have come in town, it was amazing.”
The decision to appoint a new executive director to replace Hunter will come at a later date.
“We definitely discussed (hiring an executive director), but there’s no rush,” Paul said. “For us, it’s all about getting our house in order and making sure that everything moves right in that direction.”
In meetings at the Venetian Hotel, Roger Mason Jr. was elected first vice president. He replaced Jerry Stackhouse, who resigned from the office and is expected to take a position within the union.
“Chris is an All-Star player and person and we look forward to working with him,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
Tolliver and Steve Blake were elected vice presidents, filling the executive committee positions vacated by Paul and Mason.
“This is not a position that’s about me or one person,” Paul said. “It’s about the collective group and the players and I think from my experience … it’s about growing the game and expanding our brand and continue to get our players involved as we can and make sure our voice is heard. The guys here just understand it’s our union, there’s no one person that is bigger than the group.”
Paul said the union needed a “rebuild,” and he was looking forward to rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. Tolliver agreed, saying it was time to turn the page on a messy time in the union’s history.
“We want to make sure that nothing remotely close that has gone on in the union in the past 12 months or so will ever happen again,” Tolliver said. “It’s a huge job. It’s a huge responsibility. I’m glad to be a part of that.”