SH Blog: Arn Tellem wants Billy Hunter out; Robert Parish is struggling; Cartman sighting


Today was not Billy Hunter’s best day as director of the National Basketball Players Association, although he has had worse.

Quite a few people want him ousted from his post, and they are speaking out.

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Heisler: Kobe or not Kobe: The answer’s finally in the affirmative


LOS ANGELES — I didn’t set out to major in Kobe Bryant, having long since graduated when he showed up here at 17.

Things just led that way. I covered his father, Joe, whom he called Jellybean, as a 76ers rookie in the 1970s. I knew the family from Baker League games, where I met Joe’s gregarious father, Big Joe. After not having seen Joe for decades, I ran into him at the 1995 Adidas camp at Fairleigh Dickinson where his son, a rising junior who was still 16, won the MVP over Tim Thomas, the supposed star of their class.

A year later I met Kobe Bryant in Chicago – where he was attending the predraft camp – in the downtown Marriott, the NBA writers’ home away from home. He was by himself on the second-floor balcony, looking down at the goings-on in the lobby, like a kid far away from home, I thought.

Of course, that was before I knew Kobe was never alone with Kobe.

I introduced myself, said I knew his dad, etc.. He said he was going out to Los Angeles to work out for the Lakers.

I didn’t think twice about it. Even if Kevin Garnett had just made the jump from high school, everyone thought Kobe – then a spindly 6-5 and 165 pounds – was in over his head. Lakers GM Jerry West invited him as a favor to Arn Tellem, Kobe’s agent, who wanted to know who he had on his hands.

The workout, West would tell Tellem, was the greatest he had ever seen.

Clippers coach Bill Fitch said the same thing when Kobe worked out for them.

John Calipari, the Nets’ new coach, was set to take Kobe with the eighth pick – until Tellem, whose client was head over heels in love with the Lakers, said Kobe didn’t want to stay that close to home.

GM John Nash, who had Philadelphia roots and understood Bryant’s potential, tried to talk Calipari into taking him anyway. Calipari, who had control, took the safe pick, Kerry Kittles.

With the Lakers agreeing on a deal to send Vlade Divac to Charlotte for the 13th pick, Suns coach Danny Ainge, similarly blown away, got owner Jerry Colangelo to try to trade up for Golden State’s 11th pick.

Said Ainge years later, laughing: “And then they turned around and took Todd Fuller.”

Moving Divac’s $4.5 million salary was perfect for the Lakers, who were hotly pursuing Magic free agent Shaquille O’Neal, whom they landed three weeks later.

On draft day, when the Hornets took Bryant for the Lakers, Ainge, sitting in the Phoenix war room, said he exclaimed, “They just got Shaq and Kobe!”

If this was the first time both names were mentioned in the same sentence, it wouldn’t be the last.


Whatever else Bryant has been for 16 years, he always has been the straw that stirred the drink for all that time.

His greatness was never in doubt. His lucidity was, as the most daring – or crazed – shot-maker in the game’s history.

So was his image, which changed every few years, going from All-American Boy, to one of two dueling divas, to Black Mamba, the nickname he embraced when O’Neal left and he became the most shunned superstar the NBA has ever seen.

Even after earning everyone’s respect by winning title Nos. 4-5 without O’Neal, Bryant remained – as he assured the LA media he regarded so attitudinally – the same “edgy guy.”

I was a confidant for the first eight seasons and have had no relationship with him since. This was the new norm for Bryant, who stopped doing one-on-one interviews with anyone but trusted national guys. Even they were rarely allowed to quote him.

Even in Kobe’s memorable 2003 he’s-not-my-quote-big-brother rant at Shaq, Stephen A. Smith had to go on ESPN and paraphrase him. In 2007, Ric Bucher was left dangling with no source he could name after Kobe did a 180, months vowing privately never to put on a Laker uniform again.

So, after all these years, who would imagine this?

Kobe smiles.

Kobe’s not edgy with the press.

Kobe breaks out laughing on the bench in last week’s win over the Mavericks when Pau Gasol and Ramon Sessions broke down on a pick-and-roll, letting Jason Terry walk with such ease to the hoop – where he hit the underside of the rim with the game-winner thanks to Matt Banes swooping in to alter the shot.

Kobe makes jokes at his own expense, as when he told ESPN’S Heather Cox he’s sitting out in an ongoing effort to find “the fountain of youth.”

An all-time great at holding grudges, Bryant had to get over it with Phil Jackson, who called him “uncoachable” after leaving in 2004 and returning in 2005.

Now Kobe forgives people, such as Lakers employees he has shunned for years.

Most important of all, he backs new coach Mike Brown, which is why this aging mid-transition team still resembles the Lakers even as Brown – trying to establish an authority level he did not dare attempt in Cleveland – zings him.

If there are few times that it wouldn’t be fair game to note Bryant’s woolly shot selection –  as Brown did after a loss in Washington – Kobe’s six-second pause before commenting was enough to prompt Brown to apologize to the team (Brown’s version), or to Bryant (as reported by the Los Angeles Times).

Then there was the home loss to Memphis, where Brown took Kobe out in the fourth quarter, seeming to go beyond “stepping on Superman’s cape” and heading for “career suicide.”

Kobe punched a chair angrily on the bench, but wouldn’t say a word about it afterward, noting, “I’ve had his back all season.”

And so he has.

Not that this should be a surprise, but there may be generalized dissent bubbling under the surface with Brown trying to walk in Jackson’s giant footsteps, lacking the credibility the Zen Master had the day he arrived in 1999 with the six rings he had won in Chicago.

Metta World Peace noted Brown’s “video guy” background.

Andrew Bynum suggested they re-work the offense to give him some cutters to hit when he’s double-teamed.

Unidentified veterans, reportedly including Bryant and Derek Fisher, suggested re-installing the triangle.

Bynum then staged his own punk revolution, not only chafing at being benched for launching a 3-pointer with 18 seconds on the shot clock, promising to shoot more and  finally being fined by the team after skipping a meeting with GM Mitch Kupchak.

This, of course, prompted a local debate along the lines of “Drew: Total idiot, or just clueless?”

Restoring perspective, Bynum – an All-Star whose only real issue has been his health – then started putting up huge numbers, going for 30 points twice and 20 twice in the next eight games, with a 30-rebound game in the win in San Antonio.

So everything is cool in Lakerdom … kind of.

When the Lakers recently won four in a row without Bryant, the local, quote “debate” changed to “Is this team better without Kobe?”

Of course, everyone has just came scurrying back to reality when the Spurs ended the winning streak in a 21-point wipeout at Staples on Tuesday.

“This proves it,” a Times headline declared. “They need Bryant.”

Gosh, who’d have imagined that?

Oh yeah, any eighth grader, assuming he didn’t listen to one of those “debates” on the impact of Our Team’s latest loss on Western Civilization.

In other words, while the world around Bryant gets screwier by the day, Kobe – the lifelong force unto himself – goes the other way, looking happier than he has ever been as an NBA player.

Congratulations. It took you long enough.

Mark Heisler is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops, LakersNation and the Old Gray Lady. His power rankings appear Wednesday and his columns appear Thursday. Follow him on Twitter.


Agents to NBA Players: Be Wary


By Chris Sheridan

NEW YORK — The NBA player agents who have not been happy with the way collective bargaining talks have been unfolding are starting to speak up — just as the 11th hour is arriving for saving the Nov. 1 start of the regular season

The following memo, obtained by, was sent to clients of one high-profile agency and was expected to be sent to all the clients of agents Arn Tellem, Jeff Schwartz, Bill Duffy, Leon Rose, Henry Thomas, Dan Fegan and Mark Bartelstein.

It is reprinted here verbatim:

Dear Player,

I am writing to you because the negotiations between the NBPA and NBA owners are at a critical stage.  You must take action and protect your rights.

Your Voice Must be Heard

Any deal you and the owners agree upon will have a major impact on you, your family, and your career

  • Educate yourself on the specifics of the negotiations and proposals that have been made.
  • Demand a full vote by all players on any proposed deal between the players and owners.
  • Contact the NBPA to ask questions and speak out about the issues that will directly impact you and your family.

The Current Proposal Hurts Your Earning Potential

The NBA demands deep cuts and major “givebacks” that will cripple your earning potential and the earning potential of every future NBA player. 

  • The NBPA offered to reduce the players’ share of BRI from 57% to 52%.  This will result in a transfer of over $200 million per yearor a minimum of $500,000 per player back to the owners.
    • This results in at least 8% or more of your salary being withheld by the owners each season through the escrow withholding.  This applies to all contracts, including contracts signed before the lockout.  You may never receive this money back.
  • The owners demand mandatory reductions in all player salaries in addition to the escrow withholding, including “claw backs” from all existing contracts by as much as 10% per year
    • With an 8% escrow and a 10% “claw back,” each player will likely return 15 – 20% of his salary to the owners at the end of each season. 
  • A reduction of the players’ share of BRI to 52% will result in severe restrictions on free agency and your ability to obtain your true market value.
    • Every NBA team’s Salary Cap will be significantly reduced, leaving teams with much less Salary Cap room to sign free agents.
    • Teams will possess all of the leverage because there will be fewer teams competing for your services.
    • Players will compete against each other for shorter and smaller contracts than the contracts that were available under past systems.
    • A reduced salary cap reduces the Maximum Salary.
    • The NBA demands a reduction in the Mid-Level Exception salary and contract length as well as new limitations on Bird rights.  This will severely restrict usage of these very important exceptions and harm your ability to negotiate a fair contract.  

Refuse Any Deal that Excludes the Players from the Explosive Growth of the NBA

The owners demand a long term deal with the players but do not want to share in the tremendous growth and success of the league over the past six seasons. 

  • Over the past six seasons:
    • The NBA enjoyed record attendance, sky-rocketing television ratings, and ever increasing television rights deals;
    • NBA franchise values have continued to escalate and set records (compare the sales of the  past six years to previous sales); and
    • International growth is rapid and constant with a growing worldwide television audience and more games played internationally.
  • During the 2010-11 season, the NBA experienced its highest revenues ever.
  • Demand to see the complete financial records of the owners over the past six seasons, including their related entities (such as regional sports networks and arenas).

Never Respond to Ultimatums or Threats– Stand Strong for Your Principles

The owners will threaten a doomsday scenario, but you must not yield to their ultimatums or threats.

  • The NBA seeks unprecedented and unjustified changes to the collective bargaining agreement. 
  • Do not acknowledge “scare tactics” and fight to achieve your goals.  You fought your entire life to reach the NBA and must not let your right to receive fair compensation be taken from you now.
  • Careers are short with limited time to maximize your earnings and limited opportunities to share in the money you help generate for the league.  If you don’t fight to preserve your rights now, you will pay the price in each pay check you receive for the rest of your career.
  • It is your career, your family, your income, your future. What will you do?

Participate in the Process and Protect your Individual Right to Bargain

When the time comes, you must demand that the NBPA submit any proposed agreement to a vote by all NBA players and provide every player with a reasonable amount of time to review and consider the proposed deal. We urge you now to become involved and educate yourself.  Knowledge is power! 

  Contact the union to educate yourself and fight for what is important:

  • No further reduction of the percentage of BRI received by the players.
  • Maintain existing structure of the Bird and Mid-Level Exceptions.
  • No reduction in Maximum Salary from existing levels.
  • No reduction in Contract Length from existing levels.
  • No changes to Unrestricted Free Agency and improve Restricted Free Agency.

Any deal must include these points.  Remember, it is not about when or how fast a deal is reached, it is about taking the time to secure the best deal.

We are here to support you. We welcome the opportunity to address any questions or concerns you may have.