Kevin Johnson to lead players’ union search for new executive director

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Well, at least now the NBA players union has decided on who is going to help them decide who should be executive director.

Former NBA player and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will head up a search committee to find a new executive director for the National Basketball Players Association, the union announced on Monday.

That job has been vacant since Billy Hunter was let go 14 months ago following a scathing report that questioned his management and said he made preferential dealings with family members. The union press release says the goal is to have someone in place by the start of next season.

“Mayor Johnson is in a unique position as a former player and someone skilled in the politics of negotiations to lead this effort,” said union president Chris Paul in a released statement.

“I have a deep passion for the NBA and the promise it has for everyone connected to it,” Johnson said in his statement. “Everything I’ve been able to achieve in life was a result of embracing the opportunities that I had as an NBA player.”

Johnson is a polished consensus builder — remember he spearheaded the effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento — and those are the kinds of skills needed to help pick someone for a position where a lot of different people have varied interest in who gets selected. There are agents and others that want to push back against the owners after gains the owners made in the last collective bargaining agreement, while others see those percentage points as gone and want instead someone who can hold that line and find ways to increase the league’s revenue pool. Also, there has long been an “what is good for the elite players may not be good for the average player” tension in the union and in its bargaining sessions.

Whoever is ultimately selected for this job will be the one sitting across the table from Adam Silver in 2017 when one side — probably the owners but maybe the players — opts out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. A lockout that year seems likely, at least as viewed right now, and how that plays out will in large part be about who is picked and what their view of the negotiations.

There already has been one round of searches and this past All-Star weekend in New Orleans the union’s executive committee met with two candidates: David White, former director of the Screen Actors Guild; and Michele Roberts, a respected corporate attorney.

After those interviews the union has decided to open up the process again.

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.