NBA Rumor: Agent Changes

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On Sunday’s episode of “Ball in the Family,” Ball discussed the decision to join Klutch and Rich Paul at length, including discussing his desires to grow his profile off the court. Here’s a full transcript of the three segments in which Ball talks about his move, the middle of which comes in a conversation with girlfriend Denise Garcia: “I think signing with Klutch was a good step for me just because I got make that decision 100% myself. I think Rich (Paul) has a ton of influence, so I’m definitely (with) my career in his hands.”

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Lonzo Ball signs with Klutch

Three years into his NBA career, New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball views this as a pivotal offseason, which began with an important business decision: Ball has signed with agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, the 22-year-old told ESPN. “I wanted to lead my career,” Ball told ESPN. “Picking my own representation — just solely as my decision — was step one in that process. For me, it was an easy call, and it was the right time to make that call.”

Older agents can sell players on their experience and a client list and several big contract signings as proof of their work compared to younger agents seeking their first big deal. “For me, I think what’s used against me is that I’m inexperienced, so I don’t really have the experience or the power, which is I think a bunch of b——- at the end of the day,” one agent told HoopsHype. “I don’t think that’s a real thing. I think it comes into play a little bit. Relationships are important, but at the end of the day, I still think talent is really what sets the mark. I mean, me and you could be LeBron James‘ agent, he’s going to get a max contract.”

Usually, the first sense an agent has the relationship with a client is nearing the end is when the player doesn’t return phone calls or text messages. “By the time they get to the phone, you could tell when someone calls you if they have the balls, most of the time they don’t, it’s by text,” one veteran agent told HoopsHype. “You know, it’s really an empty veil. It’s like a breakup by text with a girl you know or divorcing someone by sending them a letter or an email. It’s like thanks for your service, but I decided to move on. Very rarely do you get the reason why.”

While some agents felt their termination was coming, most of the agents expressed shock when terminated. “I talked to an agent once out of New York who said, “S— my guy was toasting me at my wedding, and a week later, I got a FedEx package,” one longtime player rep told HoopsHype. Another agent was preparing to negotiate a deal for his client on July 1. This agent saw the FedEx truck showing up at his cul de sac on June 15th. At that moment, the agent knew without opening the envelope that he’d been fired and would lose a large commission.

Third, the bad blood between the two parties can boil over into a heated confrontation and bitterness for years to come. “I think in the beginning of my career I probably lost my cool one time with one guy,” an agent with a handful of years as a certified agent told HoopsHype. “We exchanged some words and kind of got into it where he was like threatening me.” Many times before games, a former agent and client will look at each other and turn away immediately or say hello briefly and carry on. Generally, the tension can be felt by those around both people.

Whether it’s a family member, manager, trainer, former coach, close friend, teammate, or someone else in a player’s inner circle, there’s usually an angle for an intermediary to push for a change in representation. “Everyone’s incentivized when people switch,” one prominent agent told HoopsHype. “Somebody’s getting paid, like 99 (percent) someone’s getting taken care of in the next contract, or somebody’s getting paid when there’s an intermediary involved. Sometimes, players grow up, and they start to figure things out, and then they don’t use an intermediary. They learn enough, they talk to some veterans that they respect, who have a good reputation. They say, ‘I’m going to find someone for me, not who my dad wanted or, or my AAU coach wanted or whoever. I want to make my own decision.’”

“They (sneaker reps) have relationships with the players at a different angle, and they’re trying to push players with an agenda whether it’s for kickbacks, which I assume it is, or it’s for another reason, I don’t know, but they don’t play neutral,” one agent who has negotiated maximum-salary contracts and large endorsement deals told HoopsHype. “Then you’ve got the managers, and then you got the trainers. If you don’t sync up everybody onto your page and everyone’s biting out of your pocket, you’re going to lose a guy. You have to insulate the player to anyone that has any influence, and people that you don’t know have an influence, you have to be aware of as well. It’s a never-ending cycle. I remember one time, there was a tailor, like a clothier, who had influence over players who was pushing them to an agent for a kickback.”

The battle between agents for a client and a hefty commission can get heated if any of these scenarios occur, and a poaching attempt is provable. “You have to get in the agent’s face and say, ‘Stay out of my yard,’” an agent told HoopsHype. “Then, you have to write them a law letter claiming tortious interference. Send them a very strong letter to say I’m not going to tolerate this, and you have to police it yourself. You either move the needle that way or the person is criminal, he doesn’t give a s— anyway, he does it anyway, and then you’ve got a battle on your hands.”

“I would ask those fans who are fans of Trae or Atlanta fans to just look at his history. He knows this is a team effort, but he wants to have that statue next to Dominique (Wilkins) one day, man. I’ve told you this before, my son is 6-foot-1, but he thinks he’s the best player on the court no matter if LeBron is on the floor with him. Hopefully, it never backfires on him, but he’s got big balls and is very confident. He just knows what he wants to accomplish. I never think my son is going to join a super team unless they all come to Atlanta. He’s just got too much pride to do that. Maybe that pride will backfire, but who knows. My son has seen it happen here in Oklahoma City with (Kevin Durant). He wasn’t one of those who called him a cupcake, but he’s seen the backlash of something like that happen.” Young’s contract with Klutch is expected to become official Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, Young was on a conference call with Adidas, one of his main sponsors, brainstorming how he and the company can help black-owned businesses in Atlanta.

“Most definitely because at the end of the day, Trae needs to focus on basketball,” Rayford said. “Trae needs to focus on helping the team win and helping them get to the playoffs. He’s got to have someone he knows when he needs to call the front office, if it’s positive or negative. He needs to have a voice representing him who he could trust. I hate to put it this way; it can’t be someone who just has a long history of being an agent. It has to be someone who he feels good with. It can’t be someone who just because they rep one of the top five players or top 10 players of the league. Trae didn’t go to Klutch just because of A.D. or LeBron. He went there because he believes guys like Rich and Omar can make some calls for him. You have to go with who you’re comfortable with. That’s on the court and off the court. Hopefully, Trae is in the position one day to play with who he’s comfortable with. That’s just the opportunities he’s building for himself now.”

Jermaine Jackson confirmed that Lonzo, LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball are all preparing to sign with JAY-Z‘s Roc Nation Sports for representation. The sports management division will negotiate marketing opportunities for the brothers, including LaMelo’s sneaker contract which is still in negotiation. Speaking to ESPN, Jackson, who is LaMelo’s manager, referred to the news as a “family decision.” He said, “This is now an extended family. They put together a beautiful game plan with Jay-Z. The basketball game is about to change. They are going to create something totally new.”

LaMelo, Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball are planning to sign with Roc Nation Sports, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. “This was a family decision,” Jermaine Jackson, LaMelo Ball’s agent, told ESPN. “This is now an extended family. They put together a beautiful game plan with Jay-Z. The basketball game is about to change. They are going to create something totally new.” Roc Nation Sports is a branch of Jay-Z’s music management company, which he started in 2013. The company represents multiple sports and top NBA players like Kyrie Irving and Markelle Fultz.

In February, Robinson signed on with Rich Paul, the superagent who guides the careers of LeBron James and Anthony Davis and recently made the cover of Sports Illustrated for his influence. Paul became Robinson’s fifth agent — one of the perplexing sidelights to Robinson’s fledgling career. So far, so good as Robinson’s game took off in the final weeks leading into the March 11 shutdown. “When you get the right representation, there’s an ease that comes to your mind that allows you to focus on other things,’’ Paul told The Post in his first remarks regarding his new alliance with Robinson. “It’s hard to sleep with both eyes closed in this business. It’s a lot more mental than people think.’’

Dennis Smith has new agent

The 2019-2020 N.B.A. season kicked-off last week and for Roc Nation Sports and their clients, it was a busy day. The surging sports agency added an additional client to that list. Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has signed with Roc Nation Sports and will be represented by veteran agent Raymond Brothers. Brothers recently joined Roc Nation Sports and has quickly made significant contributions to the agency, bringing with him both existing and new clients.

Jaylen Brown finally hiring an agent?

Brown has made it through three years without an agent. His mother has handled a lot of the responsibilities, and he has worked with a marketing executive. And that was probably a savvy play on his part, as rookie contracts are locked in anyway. But these negotiations are different. One league source said it appears that Brown will retain an agent for these talks. The problem for Brown is that he has not really shown statistical improvement over his three seasons. His per-36-minute numbers are almost identical. So the Celtics will likely be reluctant to make a max extension offer. But it’s unlikely Brown would settle for much less. The probable result is that no deal is finalized before the season begins, meaning Brown will enter next summer as a restricted free agent.
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December 2, 2020 | 9:41 pm EST Update