On Thursday afternoon, the Boston Celtics announced that they had waived veteran combo guard Keyon Dooling, who had re-signed with the club as recently as July 31. Though Dooling was looking at reduced playing time this season, he performed admirably for the Celtics in 2011-12, providing key pressure defense when guard Avery Bradley had to sit during the bulk of their playoff run with a seriously injured shoulder. The return of Bradley and signings of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee indicated that Dooling would not have a huge role with the Celtics, but he was nevertheless a useful player given their needs.
It turns out that the Celtics might not have waived Dooling for purely basketballular reasons. As their official statement notes Dooling wants to focus on his life away from basketball:
"Keyon has decided that he has given the NBA 12 good years and that it's time to pursue other interests and spend more time with his family," said Dooling's representative Kenge Stevenson. "He will never forget his time in Boston with the Celtics."
"We'll miss Keyon's spirit and energy, both on and off the court," said Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge. "The whole Celtics family wishes him well as he enters the next phase of his life."
We wish Dooling luck, too. He started only 86 games and played for six franchises, but Dooling carved out a solid career as a veteran presence and an effective reserve who could help at both guard spots. There are certainly worse ways to play out 12 seasons in the NBA, and that longevity means something. He won't go down in history as a particularly memorable player, but he's the sort of background player who makes the NBA a world unto itself rather than just a platform for stars.
However, off the court, Dooling holds a very important role as the NBPA's first vice president on the Executive Committee. That makes him the second most powerful player in the union behind Derek Fisher, which means there's now an open position near the top of an organization in the midst of a serious power struggle. As Adrian Wojnarowski has reported often since the NBA lockout ended at the end of November, Fisher and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter have been at odds, with Hunter convincing the Executive Committee to push for Fisher's ouster and Fisher calling for an audit of union finances.
If we go strictly by rank, Dooling was the most powerful player opposing Fisher within the union. Now that he is retired and therefore no longer a member of the NBPA, he will need to be replaced. Typically, an existing member of the Executive Committee, such as Maurice Evans or Roger "How u" Mason would take over. But if Fisher has support among the rank-and-file union members, we could see a vote that introduces a pro-Fisher member into the mix and changes the facts of this power struggle. Plus, even if a pro-Hunter player becomes first VP, there will still be another spot to fill on the Executive Committee.
No matter the outcome, Hunter will have a numerical advantage among the most powerful players in the union. But Dooling's retirement introduces new questions as the union enters an uncertain future.