Dan Fegan is, like the rest of NBA agents, really busy these days as we get closer to the draft and (maybe) free agency. This year the summer could be very different with a potential lockout, but Fegan still hopes an agreement can be reached before it's too late.
What's your opinion on the labor talks?
Dan Fegan: I have good relationships with the owners and the NBA Players Association. It's not a foregone conclusion that there will be a lockout. There's still time, granted it's a short period of time. If there is a lockout, that doesn't mean we are going to miss games. It's a very complicated issue, it's not the Union vs. the NBA. There are different constituencies in both groups that make coming together in agreement very difficult. The owners on their side have different agendas, different desires to see changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
And the players?
DF: The players have different desires because, for example, (you have) the players who signed their contracts – Amare Stoudemire, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade - but on the other side you have Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, etcetera, that have deals coming up. So there's an interesting potential conflict there, because their interests are different. Again, the owners in big markets like New York or Los Angeles may have different interests than the owners in smaller markets. So it's not a 'me' versus 'them' dynamic. There are very interesting issues that have to be resolved on both sides before they can actually make proposals that will work.
And how do agents get involved in this conflict?
DF: The agents have a legitimate input through their clients. We do the best we can to inform our clients and give them our opinions as to what's important to their careers. It's up to the players then to make it clear to their union leaders, and we do the same. Agents have a very good relationship with the union. I think Billy Hunter and his team have strong relations in the agent group. There's a sense of unity and I feel the same way about the owners. I think the owners will come together and they will work through their issues. Personally, I don't believe that there's going to be games missed. Even if there's a lockout, I think this will be resolved so there won't be a shortened season. That's my opinion, I don't have a crystal ball, but that's one man's opinion.
But in order to avoid missing games, there has to be an agreement, then a shortened training camp and a shortened free agency period. There must be a day in the calendar where it won't be possible to avoid missing games.
DF: I wouldn't know that date. I'm sure that the league has a date mind, that David Stern has a date in mind, but I don't know that date.
DF: That makes sense.
Let's talk about some of your clients. The Ricky Rubio saga is over and he's now a Wolf. What can we expect from him in the future?
DF: It's a long awaited event. Two years ago we were hopeful that Ricky would come to the NBA. In retrospect, I think it was a good decision for Ricky to stay in Spain and mature, and grow and develop for two more years. Ricky has the opportunity to be a starting point guard this year. He has a lot of work to do to accomplish that. It's going to be a very competitive process in training camp and throughout the summer, but I believe Ricky is mature enough and ready. We'll see. I'm confident that he's gonna get a lot of playing time either way. I have great hopes for him to be an important player in this League.
What are the plans to promote Ricky in the community?
DF: I would like to have that conversation with you in about three weeks. We've been working diligently from two years ago to get companies to help promote Ricky. Minnesota is not the biggest market, but if Ricky plays well, and that's the most important thing, Ricky has to play well, I think to use an expression, the United States is his oyster. People will love him.
I'm guessing Shawn Marion has come a long way since he was traded to the Heat back in 2008.
DF: I never doubted Shawn Marion. He's a four-time All-Star and he was unceremoniously traded to the Miami Heat. That system was maybe not the best system for Shawn to make the adjustment so quickly. Shawn is an up-tempo, slashing, pick-and-roll type of player, so it was a challenge to make adjustments in short periods of time. He was then traded to Toronto, which was hard for a four-time All-Star to accept. We worked hard to get him to an environment where we felt he would have the chance to do two things: re-emerge as one of the best defenders in the league and a very important player, and second win a champioship. Sometimes plans work, sometimes they don't. This plan worked. It took a while because he completely changed his game, transformed his game to being the only low-post presence in a back-to -he basket scorer, which is almost unheard of after 10 years of an NBA career. It took him a year to do that, but once he figured it out... That was it. I believe he's one of the keys to the Mavericks' championship.
Salary-wise your biggest client is Dwight Howard. Is the best situation for him to keep his confidence in the Magic?
DF: I don't have an opinion yet, and my opinion frankly is not as important as Dwight's opinion. I don't believe Dwight has made any decision regarding whether he's going to stay in Orlando or whether he's going to request to go to another team. He has always told me that he has a great love for Orlando and fondness for the city, but he wants to win championships. Dwight Howard in my opinion is the best player in the world. For me, Dwight Howard is the best player in the world.
There's a lot of rumors about Nenê and his desire to sign an extension with the Nuggets.
DF: Nenê is the No. 1 big man free agent on the market this year, maybe one of the Top 3 free agents on the market this year. If we don't sign an extension that doesn't mean that he would not go back to Denver. It means that he's come so close to its free agency that he wants to explore his options. Of course we have to make that decision before June 30th. We're speaking with Denver on a regular basis and we'll make a decision before then.
When Carmelo Anthony was traded, there were doubts about where the Nuggets were going as a team... And then they became an exciting team. Now it seems that there is still a very good team in Denver.
DF: I think the Denver Nuggets are a very exciting team. They have a great ownership, great coach... It's certainly a highly considered option for Nenê.
Apart from Nenê there are other interesting centers that will hit free agency, and one of them is Marc Gasol.
DF: Because of the supplying demand in terms of that there are always very few true centers, big men always will have opportunities. There are more teams that want big men than they are gonna be able to get them. Marc Gasol is an outstanding player, but he is in a very different situation from Nenê because he is a restricted free agent and Memphis can match any offer. If he was an unrestricted free agent, I would consider him one of the top free agents in the market this year. He's got a bright future, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens with Memphis this summer. The Grizzlies extended Zach Randolph and that shows they're committed to keep their players.
You represent another Mav, Jose Juan Barea, who played great during the Finals and will be a coveted free agent this summer.
DF: JJ Barea was a very important part of the Dallas Mavericks' championship season. He is a unique player, he has a unique ability to get in the paint and score against obviously much bigger players. And he's really become a veteran player. He understands his role, he hits big shots. Some games he plays more minutes, some games he plays less. He's improved his passing ability, his defense... As I said, he was a very important part of their championship run.
Barea said that he would like to stay in Dallas.
DF: Of course he'd like to stay in Dallas. It was a magical season, he has an outstanding relationship with the organization and we're gonna work hard to see that he has that opportunity.
Jason Richardson and Erick Dampier are other players whose contracts are up.
DF: Erick Dampier was an important part of the Miami Heat team. He was the starting center for almost a half of the season. People realized that he can play and as we discussed earlier there's always a demand for quality big men. Jason Richardson had a great season with the Orlando Magic and he's a well-respected veteran. He's one of the best three-point shooting guards in the league and he's one of the best rebounding guards.