Basketball Players and the Lies People Tell Them

April 8, 2010

I have to say that this article, published on HoopsWorld.com, and written by Steve Kyler, really hit home with me. When the article discusses “runners”, these are guys I’ve dealt with and interacted with many times when scouting a player or teams:

A “runner” – an employee of the agent gets close to the player and his family – makes the initial relationship. When it’s time for the athlete and the family to make the decision, a lot of times the runner acts as an intermediary feeding informed information to the family about what teams are scouting the player and what teams may have the player in their rankings.

Yes, and those guys are the ones completely unregulated by the NCAA, and they try to get close to kids and eventually get a payoff. When you are a lifelong fan of basketball, you tend to see athletes from their televised games, and that’s usually when their presence has reached a much higher maturity. NBA players have to be really polished, comfortable in interviews, articulate. That’s something that a lot of us learn as we become adults, we shed the slang and sometimes self-conscious speech of our teenage years and become confident and communicative. But high school basketball players are kids, regardless if they are 6’8″ and can dunk like madmen, they still are teenagers. Most players I’ve personally met are actually polite and respectful, something I’m not sure could have been said about myself at their age.

But teenagers don’t have the world experience of adults. One thing you learn as you actually move out from school age to ‘real life’ is an ability to survive a very harsh world, and these ‘runners’ are slick talkers who can get into a kid’s good graces all too easily. For many young players who come from meager backgrounds, they have very little knowledge of their own real worth and very little understanding of how to find out things like if they actually have an NBA career ahead of them, or whether they are really on a coach’s radar. Many players and their families whom I’ve met don’t know basic things like the fact that college coaches don’t scout players by reading your local paper’s box score. When a guy shows up at their kid’s game and tells them he knows a couple of college coaches (which he likely does), the parents and the kid think they’ve gotten lucky and that this guy is the only person who can land them a big time scholarship.

This can be disasterous when players have a legitimate shot at a pro career. Even players who are talented enough to land on an NBA roster can miss out, especially if they are not prepared or if they are not talented enough to really make a splash in the NBA. That won’t stop the hangers-on from filling kids’ heads with visions of dollar signs and SportsCenter highlights:

Beyond the top three prospects this year – John Wall, Derrick Favors and Evan Turner – the next ten players could go in any combination of orders, and while “a runnner” may say “Dude you’re a lock for the top 19” there is no truth or substance to those claims.

That doesn’t stop players from making a bad decision on an empty promise. Have you ever asked yourself, what is this kid thinking?

The article goes on to explain a bit about how players can get paid even while in high school and college, and there’s not much the NCAA will do about it. It’s a huge gaping hole in the system, this part is 100% true:

Let’s make one thing clear: whether directly or indirectly, most of the college players projected in the top 100 have an agent or someone involved with an agent in their lives and likely have had that since AAU basketball.

It’s hard for young players to understand what they’re involved in and even harder for kids who come from families without a lot of good parental guidance.

Read the full article here.


The NBA Pre-Draft Training Business

April 7, 2010

John Wall

The following excerpt is republished with permission from TheRookieWall.com, and it gives excellent insight into the “business” of the NBA draft and the people surrounding players who want to cash a big NBA paycheck. Remember, once a player gets any time in the NBA, even if he doesn’t last, he gets more money when he goes overseas and is in higher demand just because he has NBA experience.

Each year roughly one hundred young men place their names in the pool of players who will be eligible for the NBA Draft. From anywhere between one and four years these players have worked at perfecting their skills in college, and now they think they’re good enough to play in the best league in the world, the NBA. As soon as their eligibility is up they’ll sign an agent, hopefully after asking the right questions and being advised by someone they trust. Once all that happens the real work beings; players start going through some form of pre-draft training.

Pre-draft training is a part of any agents pitch, and it has taken on an insane amount of importance for draft eligible players. In the recruitment of a top player, an agent will typically spend anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 in flights, meals, and hotels for he and others to see just one player throughout a season. Then, if the agent is lucky enough to land that player, he will have to empty the piggy bank again, this time probably spending in the neighborhood of $25,000, most of which isn’t reimbursable mind you. Of that $25,000, at least $10,000 of it will go towards a pre-draft training program for the client, and the rest will cover anything from meals, travel, to new gear (every soon-to-be NBA player needs to look fly).

Read the rest of the article at TheRookieWall.com


The NBA Lays Off

October 14, 2008

In anticipation of lower ticket sales, the NBA has announced that it is laying off 9% of it’s workforce.

Nine percent is such an exact number (“about 80 jobs”), it seems odd, but what’s more interesting is that the NBA is supposedly laying off people before they even know sales will be down. Businesses that lay people off as soon as they experience a bad quarter are poorly run ( and I know that includes a big chunk of the Fortune 500), but businesses that are run so poorly they have to lay off before they hit a financial bump?

It means either the NBA is run so poorly that they are nervous about folding in the face of any financial hardship and have no cash reserves OR…the NBA hasn’t been doing financially well for a while. I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say that over the past fifteen years, the NBA has stocked their rosters with early entries and high school players, suffering worse and worse ratings, declining revenues and now…one the eve of the possibility of lower ticket sales (which doesn’t include, ahem…the tv deal, which is the big revenue generator)…they are running to cut expenses.

I think the NBA is in trouble. It might be time for them to think about deeper changes than just having the players wear suits on the bench.


Brandon Jennings inks Under Armor deal

September 27, 2008

Brandon Jennings (PG, 5’11”, 2008), the flashy point guard who wowed coaches and scouts last year with his pyrotechnic passing has signed a deal with Under Armor that is “multi-year” and “incentive based”.

Jennings, who signed with Italian basketball team Pallacanestro Virtus Roma, it is the first major basketball player signing with Under Armor, who currently doesn’t have a basketball shoe on the market.


The Money Men, The NBA, and Overseas Ball

August 30, 2008

A great article by Slam Magazine covers some of the new ground involving NBA players jumping to overseas teams. To be fair, a lot of the media has discussed this as a mass defection, but in reality only two middle tier players have recently gone to Europe, and those guys were, quite frankly, somewhat replaceable.

However, this is still a good discussion for long ranging business, and the two agents interviewed by Slam were the negotiators for Josh Childress’s move to Greece:

[…]Olympiacos contacted us. We got a call from the owner, and I think he was the one who identified Josh to the coaches and general manager, and I think the first reaction was they didn’t expect that Josh would leave the NBA to come to Europe.

The agents would not take credit for the idea, but they openly admit that they pushed Josh to consider the move. And why not? Josh Childress would never command that amount of money in the NBA, unless he became the beneficiary of some infamous GM blunder like the Jon Koncak debacle in 1989 (interestingly enough, also involving the Hawks).

Overall these events are great for basketball players, because they create more options. Basketball players have a lot of leagues all over the world, unlike football, and although it makes it more difficult for college recruiters and pro teams in the United States, those organizations will have to adapt.


Join My List and Meet Magic Johnson*

June 5, 2008

* This is completely not true. Magic Johnson has nothing to do with my list. But sign up anyway, and I promise that if I ever get Magic Johnson to agree to attend a personal party for members of my list, I will totally tell you so you can meet him.

Sign up for the email list here.

P.S. If you are Magic Johnson, email me. I totally have some people I want you to meet.


ACC pays off for the NBA; More DeRozan Rumors

May 23, 2008

Hey, high school basketball recruits! You want to make the NBA? Come an play in the ACC, which has 51 current NBA players, including players you’ve been watching this month like Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, and Rasheed Wallace.

DeMar DeRozan rumor follow up

In the closest thing I’ve seen regarding fact-fiding regarding DeMar DeRozan’s potential opting out of his LOI to USC, comes in this note from Nike’s HighSchoolHoop.com:

ESPN’s four-month investigation of O.J. Mayo’s relationship with Rodney Guillory, Bill Duffy Associates and USC might have a domino affect that touches the Trojans ‘08 Class. Tim Floyd’s star recruit DeMar DeRozan is supposedly going to opt out of his letter of intent if USC is punished for the Mayo fiasco.

One of the most interesting developments brought to light by this little tidbit , is how DeRozan’s dad apparently kept his high profile superstar son away from any kind of money game previously:

To add another wrinkle to the story, Guillory supposedly contacted DeRozan a few years back to get him to play on his AAU team. But DeRozan’s dad Frank had no part of it.

So, if this is to be believed (and only time will tell), IF USC gets disciplinary action for OJ Mayo, there is a good chance that DeRozan would bolt. Of course, that means that someone has to prove that USC knew that OJ Mayo was taking money. Of course, a lot of people knew. It was pretty obvious. But proving that with hard evidence might not be so simple.