billy-hunter

NBA union head Billy Hunter’s time with Patty Hearst (and more)

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Billy Hunter today is an interesting story. He is the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, the man across the table (or will be next week) staring down David Stern in a dispute over how to split up the fans’ money that could set the entire NBA back a decade or more. No pressure guys.

But Billy Hunter’s story before he got to this moment is fascinating.

Over at Grantland, Jonathan Abrams weaves a masterful bit of storytelling about Hunter’s life, and what led him to this moment. We’ll give you some highlights, but you really should click the link and read the entire thing for yourself.

As a youth, Hunter played baseball and in 1955 was on one of the first integrated teams to play in the Little League World Series. As a team, they had to vote if they would play because of death threats against the squad.

In high school, Hunter starred in four sports, but ultimately chose to play football at Syracuse. As a running back, Hunter followed Ernie Davis, the 1961 Heisman Trophy winner, and preceded Floyd Little, a future Hall of Famer. But Hunter was also making moves that would chart his path. With the memories of his Little League days as an impetus, Hunter led a petition signed by every black athlete at Syracuse stating that they would boycott playing colleges in the South that engaged in segregated seating in stadiums or arenas.

Hunter had a brief NFL career but eventually went on to law school at Howard University then got a Masters of Laws degree at UC Berkley out in California. Out there he became a prosecutor and eventually the chief assistant in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, then President Jimmy Carter made him he U.S. Attorney for Northern California.

He brought the first major federal cases against the Hells Angels and Black Panther Party. Hunter also prosecuted the surviving members who aided Jim Jones’ cult after the mass suicide of more than 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978…. Hunter also recommended Patty Hearst’s sentence be commuted and visited Hearst while she was imprisoned.

Hunter eventually opened his own firm and eventually that led him to the chair he occupies now. Hunter has been with the NBPA for 15 years and he says he had a feeling this lockout was coming since 2007. In the end it may be the defining period of his time as head of the NBA’s players union.

But it will not be the defining time of his life.

Add Kobe Bryant to don’t change hack-a-player crowd

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant gestures after hitting a three point shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.

Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”

Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.

Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.

Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)

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On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.

Ooof.

LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.

Karl-Anthony Towns with nasty poster dunk on Dante Cunningham (VIDEO)

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Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.

While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.

Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.

Report: Come 2017, Knicks have real shot to land Russell Westbrook

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Russell Westbrook
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The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.

But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.

In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.

The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.

Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.

Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.

And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.