NEW YORK NBA players put union chief Billy Hunter on an indefinite leave Friday, two weeks after a report they commissioned questioned Hunter's leadership and criticized him for bad decisions and questionable business practices.
The union is forming an interim executive committee and an advisory committee, the group's president, Derek Fisher, said in a statement released Friday. An outside attorney is also being hired as players begin moving forward, likely without the man who has guided them since 1996.
Hunter's attorney, Thomas Ashley, said the actions weren't allowable under NBPA rules, setting up the possibility of a Hunter fight to keep to his job.
Fisher pushed for the outside review of Hunter and the union.
That examination by a New York law firm found no illegal use of funds but cited Hunter for a number of poor choices and recommended players discuss whether he should remain in charge during their All-Star weekend meetings.
Released Jan. 17 after an eight-month review, the report found Hunter was aware his $3 million-per-year contract was never properly approved. It also criticized his hiring of family members and friends, and said there were other conflicts of interests he should have avoided.
Fisher's statement said because of the ongoing investigations being conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. attorney's office, the players wanted the executive committee to take steps to protect them.
Union attorney Ron Klempner will be the acting executive director. The union also said its All-Star weekend meetings in Houston may be revised so all players can attend without conflict.
Hunter's suspension was greeted with immediate support by a number of players and agents, including agent Arn Tellem, who earlier this week sent a letter urging his clients to fire Hunter.
"This is a necessary first step to enable the players to remedy this unfortunate situation," Tellem said Friday.
Celtics First-round draft choice Jared Sullinger underwent successful lumbar disk surgery and will miss the rest of the season. The forward is expected to be ready in time for next season's training camp.
Grizzlies Owner Robert Pera is defending the trade of his team's leading scorer and other moves to dump salary, saying he believes the Grizzlies can do some "serious damage" in the playoffs with the changes. The team sent Rudy Gay to Toronto in a three-team trade Wednesday.
Pacers Coach Frank Vogel says forward Danny Granger could be back on the court before the All-Star break in mid-February. Granger has been out all season with inflammation in his left knee but was cleared to participate in full contact practice for the first time Thursday.
Clippers Forward Matt Barnes missed Friday's game against Toronto to serve a one-game suspension by the NBA for striking an opponent (Minnesota's Greg Stiemsma) during Wednesday's game.
Jurisprudence A Texas jury sentenced the son of former NBA player Nick Van Exel to 60 years in prison in the shooting death of a longtime friend.
Nickey Maxwell Van Exel, 22, received the punishment after his father wept on the witness stand and apologized to the family of the victim, Bradley Bassey Eyo. The same jury found the younger Van Exel guilty of murder Thursday. Prosecutors had sought a capital murder conviction.