From scoop guy to agent, Israeli reporter David Pick pulling rare move

From scoop guy to agent, Israeli reporter David Pick pulling rare move

Business

From scoop guy to agent, Israeli reporter David Pick pulling rare move

David Pick spent the last decade reporting on professional basketball, breaking news left and right. He was the go-to guy for overseas signings and he even broke quite a bit NBA news, despite reporting from Israel and dealing with a seven-hour time difference.

However, Pick has decided to leave that life behind and make a bold career change. He told HoopsHype that he’s retiring from journalism to become an agent for overseas players. For Pick, the time has come to start making news instead of breaking it.

He’s not certified yet, but he’s planning to file his paperwork this week to start that process. Pick says he’s already reached agreements to partner with Aaron Reilly (who represents Maccabi Tel Aviv big man Alex Tyus) and Obrad Fimic (who represents Khimki swingman Alexey Shved).

Pick started considering this transition toward the end of last season after an eye-opening talk with an agent. He was asking for information about the agent’s clients, as always. (He estimates that he sent approximately 500 WhatsApp messages per day). While this conversation started like many others, the agent became annoyed and said he didn’t have time to chat. Pick continued to pry for info, but the frustrated agent wouldn’t tell him anything. Finally, the agent said six words that changed the way Pick viewed his career.

“You’re chasing tweets,” the agent said. “I’m chasing money!”

Pick went silent. After the call ended, he couldn’t stop thinking about what the agent said. He was earning a meager salary from an Israeli media outlet, where he’d worked for the last five years. Early on, he was willing to make this sacrifice because he was getting exposure and doing something he loved. He’d always assumed that higher-paying job offers would eventually come, but they never did. Pick is no longer a young bachelor who can live paycheck to paycheck as he chases his dream; he’s married with two young children. After that conversation, he looked around his small, two-bedroom apartment and realized he was done with journalism, done chasing tweets.

“That was a holy-sh** moment,” Pick said. “I realized that every time I tweeted about a transaction, someone was getting paid [from that deal]. I’m 30 years old with two kids and I’m doing all this for tweets? That changed my whole perception of what I was doing. I was working hard and running after stories. I’d get compliments like, ‘Wow, you know the inside scoop before everybody! You’re so connected! You’re doing work 24/7!’ Okay… Where does that get me? Nowhere. ESPN isn’t calling. What’s the next step?”

When Pick attended the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas last month, that was the final straw. Several things rubbed him the wrong way now that he had this new perspective.

Decision-makers from overseas teams kept asking for his opinion about available players on summer-league rosters, while NBA decision-makers asked him about up-and-coming international players. For years, he had “played matchmaker” because he knew the market and teams valued his input. In some cases, he even connected an executive with a player’s agent. Now, it was sinking in that every other person involved in those transactions was getting paid a ton of money. He wanted in.

It also bothered him when agents asked him for phone numbers or email addresses because they didn’t know how to get in touch with certain overseas executives, coaches or players. For example, some agents needed help getting contact info for Euroleague teams. That was always something that irked him, even before he started seriously considering becoming an agent, but now it made him wonder, “What do these guys have that I don’t? I already have more numbers and relationships than some of them.” These conversations made Pick believe he could be just as, if not more, successful as current agents who make a living by representing players abroad.

Finally, he noticed how many overseas agents struggle to communicate with players, executives and coaches due to the language barrier. Pick speaks four languages – English, French, Russian and Hebrew – which he believes will give him an advantage in his new line of work.

“A lot of these European agents speak to their players in broken English,” Pick said. “And nowadays, a lot of teams in Europe go directly to the American agent; they don’t want to deal with the European agent because a lot of things can get lost in translation.

“I’m seeing all of these things and they’re adding up, adding up and adding up. Then, I decided to take a leap of faith. I’m going to try this. I’m young enough to take a chance and I’m established enough to make this happen. I have the right numbers and know the right people. I don’t know everyone, but I know my fair share – enough to feel like I can be successful at this… I’m willing to give this a few years and [risk] falling flat on my face to see if this makes sense for me.”

***

Pick was born in Englewood, NJ, but his family moved to Israel when he was a toddler. He entered the Israeli Defense Forces at 18 years old, as it’s mandatory for all citizens to serve at this age. He was a plane mechanic, working on F-16s, along with other various jobs throughout his three years in the military.

During that time, he started thinking long and hard about what career he wanted to pursue after leaving the IDF. Pick admits that the army jobs weren’t for him and he couldn’t wait to clock out every day. After that experience, he was determined to find a job that was actually fulfilling and allowed him to do something he loved.

Basketball was Pick’s passion. After quickly realizing that playing professionally wasn’t a realistic option, he sat in his basement bedroom and searched “basketball websites” on his laptop. He sent an email with his résumé to every site he could find in the first 10 pages of Google results, offering to write for free in exchange for an overseas credential. He didn’t get a single response.

After another search, he stumbled upon Eurobasket.com. The site welcomed unpaid freelancers, giving Pick his first platform to post articles. His journalism career was underway, and this job was actually satisfying and fun.

He soon realized that he should be covering games in Israel and reporting on the teams and players that were accessible to him. Pick joined a site that only covered soccer (called Sportline.co.il) after persuading the owner to add a basketball section that he would manage.

While working at Sportline, Pick started breaking some news and he fell in love. He enjoyed competing for scoops and knowing what was happening behind-the-scenes. One of his earliest scoops was that former Maccabi Tel Aviv star David Bluthenthal was changing his name to David Blu because he was pursuing an acting career in Hollywood (among other reasons). This turned some heads in Israel and helped Pick get some attention. He continued to grind and build rapport with more players, executives, coaches and agents.

Pick then landed at a prominent Israeli outlet (ONE.co.il), writing articles and appearing on television. Pick says the sports-media landscape in Israel is like “musical chairs,” with limited jobs and the same reporters often shuffling from gig to gig. It took three interviews under two different bosses for him to secure his job at ONE. Once they hired him, he stuck around for five years (until he quit last week).

On the side, he continued to grow his brand by tweeting to his nearly-50,000 followers and writing for NBA-focused websites like Bleacher Report and Basketball Insiders. He had gained the respect of many U.S.-based reporters by breaking a ton of overseas signings and quite a few NBA-related stories as well. One of the most notable examples was the San Antonio Spurs’ deal with LaMarcus Aldridge.

However, he wasn’t making enough money to support his family.

“The money isn’t the same over here as it is in the United States because this is a very small market,” Pick said. “Financially, it’s not as rewarding. If it was the same, I’d still be writing. I’d be fine if I was making what Adrian Wojnarowski or Marc Stein or Sam Amick make, but I’m not.

“I started this when I was single and in the Army. Now, I’m married with two kids. Something had to change. I feel like my family deserves better. I feel like I can do better with all my contacts. It really is a financial decision. I might as well bet on myself.”

***

Pick is the first person to admit that he doesn’t know the ins and outs of NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is why he’s focused on representing overseas players. If he ever signs an NBA client, he says he’ll place him with an NBA agent who is an expert on the CBA and has experience representing players at that level.

Pick met with two prominent agencies as he was mulling over his options. One agency offered him a job recruiting international players, but they wouldn’t offer a guaranteed salary (only a small commission for each player he landed). Pick declined the offer.

He says the other agency offered to hire him as an overseas agent, but he didn’t like the commission breakdown. For each contract, he would get just 2.5 percent of the deal’s 10-percent commission, since 5 percent goes to the agency as a whole and 2.5 percent goes to the player’s American agent. After learning this, he decided to go the independent route. While he’s open to partnering with agencies on deals (by placing players with overseas teams), he didn’t want to tie himself down to just one agency.

Prior to this, Pick’s lone experience in the agent world was a miserable one. Early in his career, when he wasn’t making any money, an agent asked him if he’d recruit new players. Pick was told he’d get a finder’s fee for each player he helped the agent land, and he agreed to help.

“I ended up getting a player to sign with the agent, but he never gave me my cut,” Pick said. “I’m not going to name him, but he’s a prick. A few years later, I saw him Vegas for the first time. I said, ‘Come on, I got you this player and you made at least $500,000 off commission. Give me something, even if it’s only $100, just so I know I earned something.’ He said, ‘You know what, if you recruit for me this summer, I’ll give you your money.’ To this day, I haven’t been paid. It was ridiculous.”

Since then, Pick has gotten to know a ton of players and what makes them tick. He knows some guys want an agent who will call them after every game and give them a lot of attention, whereas some players only need a call when there’s news and just want their agent focused on making them money.

In recent years, he helped many players pick their first agent or find a new representative if they wanted to make a change. He also asked all of the players he’s close with for advice, hearing from each individual about what they looked for in an agent and what not to do.

“After years of helping players decide which agents to cross off their list and which agent they should ultimately go with, I started to ask, ‘Why can’t I be their agent?’ Enough is enough,” Pick said.

While in Las Vegas, Pick started informing some of his closest sources that he would soon quit his job and start representing players. Pick says some NBA folks tried to talk him out of the career change, which upset him initially. Then, one Eastern Conference assistant coach admitted that he didn’t want Pick to leave the media because his team “would no longer know what’s going on in Europe.” People were trying to steer him away from becoming an agent for selfish reasons.

After he made his decision, he also informed a number of agents whom he knows well and he says the feedback has been excellent.

“Everyone has been really supportive,” Pick said. “They’ve been telling me that I’ll do well, that I already know so many people and things like that. One agent told me that I graduated from writer to agent. There was one agent who was extremely good to me over the years and I called him and told him the news because I wanted him to hear it from me and not somebody else. He said, ‘Uh oh, you’re the enemy now. There go our conversations.’ And I can’t partner with him because he already has a partner in Israel. But it was all in good spirits… until I go after one of his clients (laughs).”

Already, Pick is having to deal with new obstacles that he never had to worry about when he was a reporter.

“There are a lot of agents whom I consider good friends and I don’t want to poach their clients and eat out of their pockets,” Pick said. “That’s been something that’s been difficult for me as I try to map out potential clientele. I know that this is a business, but these are their players. That’s been the biggest obstacle for me so far. Some of these are guys who have been really helpful to me, giving me news for years. What am I supposed to do now? Call their client, tell them I’m an agent and then they potentially leave a friend of mine? I’m not that cold blooded, you know?”

Pick knows that this transition won’t be easy, but he says he’s ready for the challenge.

“Basketball is changing,” Pick said. “We’re seeing European coaches getting head coaching jobs in the NBA. We’re seeing agents like Bob Myers, Rob Pelinka and Justin Zanik moving to work in NBA front offices and having a lot of success. Just like people have accepted those things, I think people will accept this too.

“It’ll be difficult, but I think I’m at a very good starting point because of my relationships and contacts. I may be at a better starting point than any other person who’s become an agent.”

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