Office politics win-win for James Jones, LeBron James

Officially, the title remains the same as it has been for years, "Secretary-Treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association."

But for weeks, Miami Heat forward James Jones found himself acting as a political operative, of sorts, as well.

Could he deliver teammate LeBron James as president of the NBPA? Could he get LeBron to ease off his criticism of the union? Would a faction of the union's leadership create unease between James and Jones in the Heat locker room?

Then the call came from James to Jones, that LeBron would not seek the union's highest office, his schedule already stretched too thin. Shortly thereafter, Jones boarded a flight for this past week's union meeting in Las Vegas, carrying hope that the union could coalesce in the wake of former union president Derek Fisher stepping aside and with former union executive director Billy Hunter being dismissed earlier in the year.

LeBron's name never got put up to vote Wednesday. Instead, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, already a union vice president, was elected president by the 30 team representatives.

The initial reaction was one of "Wait, what?," that a player with his own championship aspirations and considerable endorsement portfolio could find the time that LeBron could not.

To Jones, the election of Paul made plenty of sense, especially amid this period of turmoil.

"LeBron had interest in having a more vocal presence within the union, being more involved,"

Jones said of their conversations. "But, at the same time, he understood that it's a transition. It's not something where overnight you get into the meat and the details of the business and how it operates and functions. And C.P. is like LeBron, the face of our game. He's an international star, an international presence, but he's been exposed to the board. So he understands the commitment. He was just more comfortable working with our existing board."

Depending on the perspective, LeBron's dalliance either raised awareness of the need for a strong union or raised greater question, particularly when claimed the union had been "going backwards."

That comment drew a harsh rebuke from executive-board member Jerry Stackhouse, the journeyman guard and former LeBron Heat teammate, who called James "misinformed."

Caught in the middle was Jones, who had to deal with fellow executive-board members on Wednesday but also has to deal with LeBron in coming months.

"LeBron's points were valid," Jones said upon his South Florida return. "He said the union had been in turmoil, had taken steps backward. The first step moving forward was reclaiming the union, which we did."

To a degree, Jones said James accomplished plenty just by speaking up.

"Make no mistake about it, our union has been a mess," Jones said. "It has been in turmoil. The general consensus of the players, not individual bodies, but the overall body, was that the union has lost touch with what its goal and mission was, and that the players weren't engaged. And we wanted to reactivate their enthusiasm."

Jones doesn't expect James to step back now when it comes to remaining engaged with the union.

"I don't need to prod LeBron," he said. "He's proven on the court, off the court, that he's self-motivated. So he'll be as involved as he wants to and we'll welcome that."

As for his own aspirations, Jones believes he has found a calling that puts his finance degree from the University of Miami to its best use.

"I've been treasurer for a while," he said. "I'm comfortable in that role. I enjoy it. It's continuity that we're looking for. It's not reshuffling the board every year."

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