NBA Saturday: Agents Poaching During Lockout?
The NBA lockout has caused many players to make difficult decisions. While it’s well documented when a player signs overseas, there has been little discussion when a player chooses to fire his agent. Since the lockout commenced, many NBA players have left their agents and hired new representation.
Jamal Crawford, Kenyon Martin, Rodney Stuckey, Austin Daye, Deron Williams, Wilson Chandler, Ramon Sessions, Josh McRoberts, Jeremy Evans, Andray Blatche, Kris Humphries, Rudy Fernandez, Jordan Hamilton, Hamed Haddadi and Samardo Samuels are among the players to leave their agents in recent months.
While it’s not uncommon for players to change agents, the number of terminations is up from recent offseasons. Some agents blame “poaching,” which is the industry’s term for stealing clients. Poaching usually involves an agent paying for a player, which is against the National Basketball Players Association’s regulations.
The NBPA’s regulations haven’t been updated since 1991, but they clearly state that an agent’s license can be suspended or revoked if they’re caught “providing or offering a monetary inducement to any player or college athlete to induce or encourage that person to utilize his services.”
Despite this threat, agents are rarely punished for paying players. A number of agents have had grievances filed against them during the lockout, but no action has been taken against them. That’s because evidence is hard to come by in these situations and, not to mention, the NBPA has had their hands full in recent months.
With players needing money more than ever and the NBPA too busy to crack down on poaching, agents have been free to test the limits. During the NFL lockout, a similar field day occurred when the National Football League Players Association decertified. Suddenly, there were no regulations for agents and a number of players received cash in exchange for hiring new representation.
Now, as the list of NBA players who have changed agents continues to grow, several within the industry are asking the NBPA to update their regulations.
“In the industry of sports representation, poaching is a huge problem,” one agent told HOOPSWORLD. “The players association can suspend an agent’s license for up to a year if they’re caught, but we’re not governed tough enough when it comes to stealing players. A lot of the agents who steal players don’t fear the NBPA. The union brushes it off and doesn’t investigate. If agents had to worry about the players association suspending them for two to three years for stealing clients, I think fewer agents would do it. Nobody would risk that. Until the NBPA puts stiffer penalties in place, this will continue to happen.”
The lockout has left many players in financial trouble, which has increased the amount of poaching.
“There are a lot of players who aren’t doing well financially,” one agent said. “Agents know who hasn’t handled their money well. They’re swarming around these guys that are in financial trouble and offering money that will last the duration of the lockout. They provide money to the player and are paid back going forward. Some agents don’t even ask to be paid back; they’ll just do the player’s next deal. The players that aren’t doing well financially aren’t thinking about loyalty – they’re thinking ‘I’m broke and I need the money.’ Players are starving right now and that has made things easier for the agents looking to steal clients.”
“It’s very frustrating and unfair to the agents who do things the right way,” the agent continued. “The agents promise players more money, more marketing deals and more attention. It’s sounds good to the kids, but they are being unrealistic. Poaching is a huge problem and until the players association creates tougher penalties for stealing players, it’ll continue to go on.”
As a number of top agents push for decertification, keep in mind that all NBPA regulations “go out the window” if the union dissolves. Poaching is already an enormous problem behind the scenes, and it may get even worse in the coming months if decertification occurs or stricter regulations aren’t enforced.
Samuels Working Hard During Lockout: If you made the trek to Las Vegas to watch Impact Basketball’s Competitive Training Series, there’s a good chance that Samardo Samuels was on the court when you stepped foot in the gym. That’s because Samuels has suited up for nearly all of the eight teams at one point or another. The 22-year-old has been quick to volunteer when teams need an extra player, and he’s been one of the top performers in the two-week series.
“I love it,” Samuels told HOOPSWORLD. “I’ve been able to come in the gym and play with guys like Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups. I’m just learning from them. Some of the veterans are guys that I grew up watching on television. I was watching when Chauncey won his championship with the Pistons. Being able to play with him and learn from him has been unbelievable. I’ve been able to add new things to my game and take notes around these guys. It’s like a dream come true.”
After a rookie season in which he averaged 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 37 games, Samuels is eager to continue his development so that he can secure a spot in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ rotation next season. He impressed his teammates and coaches last year, especially when he was moved into the starting lineup late in the season. During those 10 games, Samuels averaged 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds.
“I showed that I can do it,” Samuels said. “A lot of people doubted me and talked about what I couldn’t do. You know, ‘Samardo can’t do this or that. But it was good. It worked out in my favor and I appreciate Cleveland for giving me the opportunity to play. A lot of teams passed up on me and then the Cavaliers came to me during summer league and decided to add me to their roster. I thank them for that.”
While the lockout has limited what Samuels can do this offseason, he’s finding new ways to improve. With no summer league or offseason workouts, he has gotten creative with his training.
“I have a basketball mindset. Even though we can’t use the team facilities, I’m trying to improve 24/7. I’ve been playing basketball and I’ve found other ways to train. Whether it’s getting up in the morning to do a pool workout or running stairs here in Las Vegas, I’m trying to get better. I’m a professional and I’m working hard,” Samuels said.
Samuels is confident in Cleveland’s future. Losing 63 games was frustrating for Samuels and his teammates, but he believes that next season will be better.
“I know what our players can do,” Samuels said. “I think we’re going to be one of the best young teams. Every day in practice, I’m coming with the mindset that we’re not going to lose. I ain’t trying to lose. I hate losing and I’m trying to take that approach to Cleveland.”
One such player is Christian Eyenga, who has been playing with Samuels in Las Vegas.
“I saw Christian Eyenga play today and he was Christian Skynga!” said Samuels with a laugh. “He was getting up there. He was jumping out of the gym!”
After exceeding expectations last year, Samuels is hoping to pick up where he left and continue to contribute.
“I’m using the lockout to improve every aspect of my game,” Samuels said. “I want to polish my game. I’m working on everything.”
He’s determined to develop his game and at 22 years old, he still has plenty of upside. Just ask every team playing at Impact Basketball.
NBA News and Notes: Here are some news and notes from this week:
• Ramon Session isn’t considering any offers from international teams, according to sources close to the situation. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ point guard has received interest from teams overseas, but he’s not interested in signing abroad. He’s working out in Atlanta and focusing on the upcoming NBA season.
• C.J. Watson is considering several overseas offers. He has received a lot of interest from international teams because he has experience playing overseas. Prior to playing in the NBA, Watson had stints in Italy and Greece. The Turkish club Beşiktaş has expressed interest along with several Euroleague teams. Watson will only sign a deal that includes an NBA opt-out clause so that he can return to the Chicago Bulls when the lockout ends.
• Austin Daye has officially signed a two-month contract with the Russian club BC Khimki Moscow Region, the team announced on Friday. Daye has an NBA-opt out clause in case the lockout ends in October or November.
HOOPSWORLD Chats: There is only one chat on today’s schedule. Susan Bible’s weekly chat will get underway at 11 p.m. ET. Make sure to submit your questions early because this chat fills up fast. To view HOOPSWORLD”s upcoming chat schedule, click here.