Jeff Schwartz Rumors
But behind the scenes, there was another big winner, in NBA super-agent Jeff Schwartz and the agency he founded in 2002, Excel Sports Management. Schwartz negotiated over $1 billion in free-agent contracts and extensions that will begin next season. It is a record haul for an agency and should net the firm tens of millions of dollars (commissions are capped at 4% for NBA agents). “The speed of the market surprised me the most. On the agent side, an irrational market is a good market. What you would think might be a rational market was in my opinion a paranoid market,” says Schwartz. “You can analogize it to speed chess. You must think through your moves, but you have to move really quickly. Put another way, it is like speed dating.”
Schwartz walks through the case of client Ricky Rubio, a point guard who needed a new home after two years with the Jazz, who had just traded for Mike Conley Jr. The Indiana Pacers were looking to add a pair of high-impact players, and there was mutual interest in Rubio joining his friend Bojan Bogdanovic on the team. But when Bogdanovic agreed to a four-year deal with the Jazz, Rubio questioned if Indiana was the right fit for him.
Rubio and Lamb were just two of more than a dozen Excel clients who agreed to deals during the first 12 hours of free agency worth north of $700 million. Khris Middleton signed a five-year, $178 million extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. Third-year player Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets inked a five-year, $170 million max contract extension. Harrison Barnes got $85 million guaranteed from Sacramento. “In the past you would take your time; you would set up a meeting with a team and make a decision,” says Schwartz. “In this case, it was, ‘Let’s spend $3 billion in under 24 hours and hope we all still like each other in a year.’”