Las Vegas • Chris Paul has already seemingly done the impossible by turning the long-languishing Los Angeles Clippers into a force in the Western Conference. Now he's taken on another big task rebuilding the reeling NBA players' association.
Paul was elected president of the players' union Wednesday, replacing Derek Fisher and giving an organization cloaked in turmoil some much-needed star power at the top.
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 Wednesday night.
One of Paul's greatest gifts on the court is an ability to get everyone involved and make his teammates better. Now he'll try to do the same thing with the union. After the lockout ended and the lawsuits started to take hold, there was a feeling among many players and observers that putting a big name in the big chair would help galvanize the group and get star players interested in participating again.
That once was commonplace, with marquee players Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Alex English and Isiah Thomas all serving as union presidents. But Paul, a six-time All-Star who is widely regarded as the best point guard in the league, is the first big star to hold the top spot since Patrick Ewing's run ended in 2001. Role players Michael Curry, Antonio Davis and Fisher, who had been in charge since 2006, 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 trouble 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.