Blog Entry

Powerful agents warn NBA players not to cave

Posted on: October 3, 2011 5:47 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:00 am
Posted by Ben Gollivernba-lockout

Note (1:57 a.m.): This post has been updated to reflect new information.

Kaboom. The agents are at it again.

In the latest signal that the NBA labor negotiations are doomed, at least in the short term, six influential agents have issued a letter to their clients on Monday advising them not to agree to any labor deal that requires the players to take cuts in compensation. reported that the agents are advising players to hold a firm line on the issue of the Basketball-Related Income split. 

The owners have held firm to chopping the players' share of BRI from 57 to 46 percent since negotiations began, union director Billy Hunter acknowledged after lengthy talks over the weekend were largely fruitless.

Sources say the letter, a copy of which was obtained from a player who received it, was jointly composed by Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group; Bill Duffy of BDA Sports; Dan Fegan of Lagardere Unlimited; Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management; Leon Rose and Henry Thomas of Creative Artists Agency; and Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports and Entertainment. believed the letter advocated no movement past the current 57 percent BRI split for the players. Later Monday, also obtained the letter (read it here) and reported that it advises players not to accept any reduction past the 52 percent level that has been negotiated in talks that have been ongoing for months.

Back in September, NBPA president Derek Fisher sent a letter to all players urging unity and specifically called out these agents. Here's his reward. Anarchy at the worst possible time.  

The agents are saying to their players, in effect: "We know your interests better than the union does." This letter undercuts the strength of Fisher and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter by revealing a clear rift. As mentioned on Saturday night, October comes down to one word on the players' side: resolve. Just two days later, we are presented with a blatant signal that powerful factions of the NBPA are not on the same page. At all. 

If we take the 57 percent reading as accurate, the agents are telling their clients not to approve concessions already made by the NBA in negotiations, totally cutting the legs out from under the NBPA leadership. If we take the 52 percent reading as accurate, Fisher and Hunter are left with no room to further negotiate with the NBA owners, who, up to this point, have made it clear that 52 percent is "miles" away from getting a deal done. That reading still turns the letter into an attempt to transform the NBPA's most recent offer into its final offer. That's still serious undercutting, although clearly not as bad as if the demand is at 57 percent as was previously reported. How, exactly, are NBPA officials supposed to enter the most important day of negotiations with one hand tied behind their backs?

Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports quoted one agent on Monday: "We're not just walking off the cliff with (Billy Hunter). We're ready to take the next step and decertify. We're not going to let the league set up tomorrow's meeting as a way to trap us into a bad deal."

Whether or not the actual advice in this letter is heeded, the mere fact that it was sent represents a step backwards in the negotiation process, and it comes at the worst possible time. The NBA and NBPA will continue talks in New York City on Tuesday in what could be the last session before regular season games are canceled. If the union does not have both the desire and authority to make significant concessions, and it appears that it has neither, a delayed start to the regular season is unavoidable.

Since: Sep 29, 2007
Posted on: October 3, 2011 8:48 pm

Powerful agents warn NBA players not to cave

It's good to see Kobe Bryant care about the union and all the rest of the NBA players. As long as he gets his, who cares about the rest. If I was in the NBA union, anybody who goes and plays anywhere else, except for summer league games (and games like that), are nothing more than union busting scabs. I hope some no name, Italian league scrub, slams scab...I mean Kobe, to the ground when he goes to the hole. The result, scab, I mean Kobe, blows his knee out and the NBA returns soon after. The Lakers void his contract and the players who stayed behind with their union, shun scab, I mean Kobe. Does this really suprise anybody? Kobe has never been a team player. When he was charged with rape, he tried to give up Shaq on a bunch of BS. When the Dallas Mavs tossed the Lakers an a** whipping, he blamed Pau, Lamar, and the poporn vendors, for the Lakers failures.

Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: October 3, 2011 8:20 pm

Powerful agents warn NBA players not to cave

This reminds me of my divorce. We had a reasonable agreement, then my ex received all sorts of "advice" from outsiders that convinced her that she deserved more. Then after a year of fighting and tens of thousands in legal fees, she basically agreed to the original deal that had been mediated on day 1 of negotiations. Her "advisors" never paid one cent in legal fees, nor did they lose all that was lost by changing the conciliatory tone of our breakup into World War 3. They just walked away, ready to meddle in the next situation they had no business being involved in.

Hang tough my brothers with those agents that never sweat, never risk injury yet get a commission based on YOUR earnings. In the mean time if you, the players, lose one full year of earnings for most of you, that will be 20% of your total earnings from the NBA since most of you are lucky to have a career that lasts 5 years. For those of you with longevity, 10% of your total earnings will be gone. If the owners are willing to lock you out for a year, they will be willing to hold firm until they get what they want. So are you willing to give up 2 or 3 years of your 5 to 10 year career to get what you want? Hang in there! Solidarity with your agents? The agents will benefit from any gains since they will be around for decades. For the player though, this is bad advice!

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