No clean break for Billy Hunter and union

HOUSTON -- Billy Hunter was head of the National Basketball Players Association for more than a dozen years.

The announcement of his parting took less than three minutes.

Union president Derek Fisher, who supported Hunter for several years before inspiring the investigation that led to Hunter's downfall, took to the podium in a Houston hotel ballroom and spoke for less than three minutes, announcing that a motion had been "raised, seconded, and passed unanimously" to terminate Hunter's employment.

He later added "this is our union, and we're taking it back."

Fisher did not take questions. A few hours later, David Stern would not take questions on Hunter, either.

Hunter's parting might be the biggest story in the NBA today, and nobody will talk about it, chiefly because there are too many teams of lawyers working on this to count right now, and they're all keeping their options open. Anything anybody says has a fair chance of coming up in one legal proceeding or another.

"We do not doubt that this process will possibly continue in another way," Fisher said, in an allusion to likely fallout from Hunter, who maintains the union owes him millions of dollars for an employment agreement that some say was improperly commenced and others say was improperly terminated. "But we want to remind everyone that there are three ongoing government investigations pending. We'd like to continue to respect that process."

Hunter is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney, New York State Attorney General and the Department of Labor.

Barely an hour after Fisher spoke, Hunter -- himself a former U.S. Attorney -- had posted a statement on his new website calling into question both whether he had actually been fired, and the legitimacy of whoever might have attempted such a thing. "Given the legitimate legal and governance questions surrounding the eligibility of the members who voted and the adherence, or lack thereof, to the constitution and bylaws," Hunter wrote, "I do not consider today's vote the end, only a different beginning."

Of what, it's hard to say. With their talk of a unanimous vote, the players sound more unified than ever. That they intend to proceed without Hunter is convincing.

Less clear is how they can achieve that. A big issue heading into the meeting had been whether or not the players would offer Hunter some kind of settlement in lieu of the money he says he is owed. Evidently, that has not happened, and in place of such an agreement, the players join Hunter in bracing for the many legal battles to come.