Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Superstar Power Play

I have written before about how the NBA holds an unfair amount of power in comparison to the Players’ Association. Strict tampering rules, the collective bargaining agreement, and the NBA’s monopoly as the premiere professional basketball league give the NBA a technical advantage, and the brevity of the average players’ career along with many players’ immaturity in handling their finances gives the league a financial one.

However, there is one person, with the help of perhaps the most powerful agency in the NBA, who appears to be fighting back, at least for a handful of the league’s superstars. Henry Abbott, founder of TrueHoop, has written extensively about William Wesley, AKA Worldwide Wes. According to power agent David Falk, Wesley is “one of the two or three most powerful people in the sport.” That comes from an article written five years ago, back before in-depth reports (i.e. reports that had teeth) about Wesley mysteriously petered out. One can only assume that he has risen in the ranks since drawing players such as Carmelo Anthony (and La La Vasquez), Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Chris Paul to his friends at Creative Artists Agency.

Some view Wesley as an underhanded negotiator, a guy who for years had no official relationship with players, agents or teams, allowing him to escape NCAA and NBA tampering restrictions and do “favors” for NCAA programs, teams, and agents by developing private “friendships” with burgeoning stars and guiding them to his cohorts. Others, such as Henry Abbott, the one journalist who has actually had an on the record interview with Wesley, believe him to be pure in intention. According to Abbott, Wesley knows that one of the players’ big shortfalls in terms of their earnings is their youth and immaturity, and so Wesley treats them like family, helping them accept the challenge of developing their potential while using his connections to build a team around them that can help them succeed both on and off the court. Family, though, has certain darker connotations. The Tattaglia family, for example.

The Miami Heat, a team with six players represented by CAA, seems to confirm both of these angles. On the one hand, the 2012 playoffs featured a Lebron James who for the first time seemed to escape the self-consciousness and egotism that plagued his early career and play to his maximum potential. Perhaps James has Wesley and the team Wes put around James to thank for this newfound mentality.

Likewise, one could point towards the shady way the team was assembled, with James, Wade and Bosh flirting with other teams for months leading up to and into the free agency period of 2010. Some might call their debutante-esque behavior part of CAA’s power play. The Bulls, Clippers, Heat, Wolves, Nets, Knicks, Thunder, Kings and Wizards all, either by coincidence or through years of planning, arranged to all be at least within arm’s length of the cap space necessary to offer a maximum contract. Rather than harmless flirtation, some might describe Bosh, Wade and James’ dalliances instead as a hostage situation with CAA holding the gun. What wouldn’t a team do for Lebron James? And with rumors swirling that two or three of CAA’s free agent-to-be stars hoped to join up, the temptation had to be huge for teams to coddle CAA in any way they could.

Now that we’ve all lived through “The Decision” and its aftermath, Melodrama, and whatever puns you want to make about Chris Paul’s trade/free agency sagas, what is important to know about CAA and its influence on the League?

1) Four of their five top-paid clients have been traded in the last three years. The only un-traded player is Dwyane Wade, and we all know why he didn’t go anywhere.

2) They have only been involved in representing athletes for six years, making the fact that they are the fourth largest representer of NBA players rather remarkable.

3) They started out as and remain primarily in the business of representing entertainers. These entertainers include people like Drew Barrymore and Robert Downey Jr. along with many ESPN personalities such as Chris Broussard, Michael Wilbon and Jim Rome. They also represent Madison Square Garden.  While other agencies represent media figures in addition to athletes, none come close to CAA in their specific concentration of on and off court power players in the NBA.

These are the details that arouse conspiracy theorists.

But in the end this all may not be worth calling a conspiracy. Reality might be the better term as CAA doesn’t need to make demands of the press in order to encourage the kind of stories they desire. The real transactions in sports are built around access. Imagine how much more traffic KnickerBlogger would get if we KnickerBloggers had Carmelo Anthony’s private cell number, or were connected with Amar’e Stoudemire on Skype. Access = information = traffic = money. Ever wonder why Stephen A. Smith, whose career was on the downswing, knew about Lebron, Bosh and Wade’s plans more than a week before any other journalist? Perhaps it’s because he’s made nice with CAA. And he has reaped the benefits with exclusive interviews with the biggest NBA stars. Such a formula, again, is not groundbreaking, but CAA wields more chips than we’ve seen anyone else hold in the NBA and so, as with any corporate interactions, they hold more influence.

Likewise, if you accept the reality that agencies are going to influence the league in a way proportionate to their power, and you know that according to the New York Post, less than one month ago, Jeremy Lin refused to sign with CAA, you start to understand why journalists would look for ways to trash Lin (playing into CAA’s desires, looking to earn more access), and why word might somehow sneak into Dolan’s office that CAA preferred to see Lin go.

There is no hard evidence, but a few things make the Knicks’ behavior in free agency appear shady. The first is their refusal to tender anything more than Lin’s $1.24 million qualifying offer, excusing such a choice with a (reasonable at the time) claim that they would match any offer. The second is their seemingly immediate decision to pursue other guards. Felton seemed confident he was joining New York as early as July 4th and Kidd officially signed one day later. Why pay two point guards $20 million when you’re “sure” you’ll sign a third for $25 million?

The answer seems to be that the Knicks never intended to sign Lin, choosing instead to play to the interests of Creative Artists Agency.

Now comes the part where your interests will decide where you stand. CAA has a brief but impressive track record of aiding in the assembly of championship level teams for their superstars. The reason why doesn’t even have to be selfless. Their goal is to build an international brand for their players, the type of recognition-level that will leave those stars with sponsorship income like Jordan, whose name still sells $200 sneakers nine years after he retired and fourteen after his last championship. On the one hand, this seems like a “most people win” situation. The fans get to watch juggernaut teams battle for titles, and the players and league both benefit from the increased coverage of the league. Lastly, with the guidance of Wesley, the players get guidance without an agenda, which might help them grow into mature adults (instead of narcissists like Dwight Howard).

In the big picture, that seems like a fair deal, but then there’s the smaller picture: the game itself. What is it about games that makes us hold them so close to us, to scream at televisions, to write 2,000 word articles? My feeling has always been that it’s about the rules. There is the cliché, “It’s complicated.” That “it”? It stands for life. Life is rife with complicated decisions, choices whose implications are a mystery to us when we make them and often remain so long afterwards. A game, however, is simple. Your goal is to use the rules as a guide to win. In basketball, that means scoring more points, and scoring more points is always good. That fact that rules simplify the difference good and bad, in my opinion, is a critical piece of what makes people hold games so close to themselves.

The problem is, CAA isn’t playing by the rules. It’s making things complicated. Now, you may be thinking “but free agency is different from the game.” Well, for many fans, such as myself and the millions of fantasy sport players out there, and the millions of fans who plug trades into ESPN’s trade machine when they are feeling hopeless about their team, the process of building a team is as much a game as the game itself. It’s a huge part of the thrill, the thing that keeps fans’ chins up when they are stuck rooting for teams like last year’s Bobcats… or the Knicks from 2002-2010.

What happens if CAA continues to grow more powerful – and likely will as the more they earn for their players, the more players will be drawn to them – is that player movement becomes a sham. The entire process of building a team gets moved from a matter of working the cap and drafting wisely – playing by the rules – to a series of underhanded deals that only a tiny handful of people are privy to.

This all leaves me feeling very conflicted. On the one hand, it feels right for an organization with real muscle to be working on behalf of the players, but on the other, I feel disenchanted. I wish that this power struggle could have been resolved at the negotiating table, that the team-building element of the game is something more than a fantasy.

What leaves me most conflicted, however, is the thought that CAA and Wesley have played the Knicks. After all, every time someone succeeds in making a power play, someone else gets played. Yes, the Cavs and Raptors were the obvious losers in 2010, but what rewards, exactly, have the Knicks reaped by acquiring Anthony, playing nice with Eddy Curry and keeping ties with Isiah Thomas (whose major draft flub was selecting Balkman and Collins, both CAA clients)? With the team Walsh constructed, we were headed for a first round exit, and these last two years have looked the same. Perhaps this year will be better, but will it be thanks to CAA? The only deal I can think of that could be considered a clear winner is J.R. Smith’s frugal contract – not exactly a mind boggling benefit considering the sacrifices.

No, in my opinion, the jig should have been up for CAA and its relationship with New York as soon as Lebron James and company went to Miami. CAA played its biggest chips right there, and as soon as that happened, the Knicks should have given up on the CAA dream. Walsh, in fact, seemed intent on doing this, signing Stoudemire (not a CAA client), waiving Curry, and playing hardball in negotiations for Carmelo Anthony. If CAA’s desires for Anthony (or, indeed, Anthony’s own desires) was to be on a contender, why wouldn’t he join the Knicks as a free agent, just as the Heat’s stars did? James and Bosh’s coyness about their future seemed tailored to keep their teams from trading them, allowing them to jump to Miami without bankrupting them of assets. Why wouldn’t Anthony play things the same way?

I certainly can’t answer these questions, but they cast doubt on Abbott’s lovey-dovey storyline. Maybe we’ve learned a little something though: that it’s conceivable that Dolan really did do all this for money, that those sponsorship deals CAA negotiates for him are worth more to MSG than Lin. Then again, perhaps we’ve come full circle and all this hullabaloo is really just a result of a stupid and arrogant owner who cannot conceive of the fact that anyone would dare take advantage of him.

Without access, however, none of us will ever know for sure.

52 comments on “Superstar Power Play

  1. danvt

    Interesting article. Thought provoking but, ultimately, I don’t think CAA has the control over LBJ and MSG.

    I think the Knicks, right or wrong, really think they’re better with Felton/Kidd/Prignoni. I think Woodson and Grunwald feel that way too. These things make me feel better about that decision. Now, I think Lin is a lock to play really well in HOU next year, but maybe with all the people on the court in NY there’s not enough ball for three guys that need it a lot. In other words, in NY, Lin is 13ppg and 6 ast. In HOU he’s 16 and 7.

    I’m not saying I think the Lin move was the right one. I would have just gotten him, Novak and JR and let everyone else pass, but, I’ll hope cooler heads prevailed.

    Maybe Dolan is pissed that Grunwald talked him into letting Lin go.

  2. Nick C.

    Nice article. You can never have enough articles pointing out how underhanded and rigged matters can be. I still find the Woodson agent situation baffling, why not fire his agent when the Knicks first approached him to hire him. Anyway if nothing else thanks for a little diversion.

  3. Marc R

    Yes, interesting article.

    One nit though is that Walsh didn’t waive Curry.

    Also, is Felton a CAA client? That would certainly explain why he got 4 years.

  4. sidestep

    If I get the CAA story offered here and touched on at ESPN, it goes something like this: had Lin signed with CAA, he’d still be on the Knicks. At the same time, the story is that since CAA represents Melo and they didn’t want Lin taking away the spotlight and marketability of their guy Melo, they maneuvered to get rid of Lin. These two stories don’t mesh, and are even contradictory. So, if CAA represented Lin and kept him on the Knicks, there would still be the same issue of Lin diminishing Melo’s presence such that CAA would have internally contradictory interests. Internally contradictory interests doesn’t make for a compelling conspiracy.

  5. Brian Cronin

    It’s always interesting to discuss the shadiness of agents in the modern era, but I think the end of the column just went off into such speculative stuff that I don’t think it was as helpful. We really don’t know what role, if any, CAA played in Lin’s departure, so it seems a bit much to discuss it in any great length. Maybe in the future we will learn more details, but for now, it seems premature.

  6. Jafa

    Great article. When I read Abbott’s piece on “the family” I knew CAA was now controlling personnel decisions for the Knicks, hence letting Lin go made sense. I think Walsh may have played hard ball with them after the LeBron saga, but lost the power struggle in the Melo trade dealings.

    Also, the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls may have cut ties with them after they were led to believe they had a real chance with LeBron, and for Brooklyn, acquiring Melo from Denver. The Clippers still seem to be in bed with them.

    On the one hand you want an organization like this to help the players where their union has failed them. On the other hand, this type of organization’s agenda does not always line up with what the fans want, leading to personnel decisions that either reward them (Miami’s 2010 free agency haul) or hurts them (Cleveland and Toronto’s pain).

  7. Jafa

    Tony Parker and Ty Lawson are their clients. I wonder how much influence, if any, they have with San Antonio and Denver.

  8. Jafa

    sidestep:
    If I get the CAA story offered here and touched on at ESPN, it goes something like this: had Lin signed with CAA, he’d still be on the Knicks. At the same time, the story is that since CAA represents Melo and they didn’t want Lin taking away the spotlight and marketability of their guy Melo, they maneuvered to get rid of Lin. These two stories don’t mesh, and are even contradictory. So, if CAA represented Lin and kept him on the Knicks, there would still be the same issue of Lin diminishing Melo’s presence such that CAA would have internally contradictory interests. Internally contradictory interests doesn’t make for a compelling conspiracy.

    For an example on how CAA made it work by representing multiple clients on the same team, look at the Miami Heat. LeBron continues to shine while Wade and Bosh take a back seat without completely being out of the conversation and spotlight. They still get endorsements, all-star game appearances, championships and ample camera time and column space.

    I think if Lin had signed with them, they would have made Lin work on the Knicks as a 2nd star to Melo (since STAT is not their client, why highlight him at all).

  9. ephus

    I do not see the evidence that the Knicks “played nice” with Eddy Curry because he was a CAA client. From 2008-09 through 2010-11, the Knicks treated Curry as a sunk cost. They had foolishly provided him a five year contract as part of the trade from the Bulls. Waiving Curry would not have saved the Knicks any money, only deprived them of a potential trade asset. They let Curry work out on his own, in the hope that he would return to playing condition. New York did not waste much playing time over the last three seasons (11 games over the three seasons, with none in 2010-11).

    The linked articles demonstrate that CAA (and Worldwide Wes personally) engaged in a lot of effort to try to get Curry back on the court. JR Smith (long before he was a Knick) was one of the players brought in to work out with Curry. But that is just an agent attempting to salvage the career of a client, not an example of a conspiracy.

  10. Eric Chen

    Bumped up from a response I just left for Z-man in an earlier thread on Lin, but I think relevant here:

    About Felton v Lin. ‘But’ statement: I liked Felton when he played with Stoudemire under D’Antoni, but he was streaky in 2010, too. Bigger ‘but': Felton is not the right kind of guard to win in the play-offs.

    The Knicks went out of their way to sign experienced facilitator PGs this off-season in order to repair their “clumsy” fitting Big 3, and I believe Felton, Kidd, and Prigioni will work out fine in the regular season. As teams advance deeper in the play-offs, though, systems get trumped by play-off defense. Winning deep into the play-offs requires multiple creative outside-in scorers with ball movement (playmaking). That’s Lin. See Westbrook/Durant/Harden (their ball movement needs to improve), James/Wade, Ginobili/Parker, Pierce/Rondo(streaky)/(younger)Allen. The Knicks have Anthony who fits the bill, but he’s not enough. Who are the other perimeter iso scorers? None of the current PGs. Equal-chance explode/implode JR Smith is the only candidate. Kidd worked well for the Mavs in 2010-11 only because he was paired with perimeter scorers Barea and Terry to take pressure off Nowitzki (ie, the Mavs’ Melo).

    I believe Lin’s floor, if he regresses, is Mavs-Barea-on-steroids – he would have been the other iso scorer who can also make plays. Felton has a much more established NBA track record than Lin; unfortunately, Felton’s track record says his type of game isn’t right for the post-season. Lin’s NBA track record is short, but he promises the right type of guard game to win in the play-offs. Lin with Felton and/or Kidd is a lot closer to a proven play-off winning formula – see 2010-11 Mavs. Replacing Lin with Nash would have made sense. Replacing Lin with a cheaper Felton, however, while it probably won’t hurt the Knicks in the regular season, pushes them further from ultimate play-off success: penny-wise, pound-foolish.

  11. flossy

    Newest Knick Ronnie Brewer is also a CAA player, and I believe he mentioned in an interview recently that he turned down larger offers from other teams.

    I have to say, the fact that we let Lin leave for nothing and were able to sign Brewer for peanuts makes me all the more sad that we could make the Shumpert for Nash S&T work out. The consolation then was, well, Shumpert brings the kind of perimiter defense we really need, and at least we still have Lin, who could break out into a really good PG. Now we have a stable of mediocre PGs for the foreseeable and it turns out signing excellent wing defenders is really not hard at all.

  12. max fisher-cohen Post author

    Marc R:
    Yes, interesting article.

    One nit though is that Walsh didn’t waive Curry.

    Also, is Felton a CAA client?That would certainly explain why he got 4 years.

    My bad on the Curry thing. He was part of the Melo deal, of course. Brain fart.

    Felton is not a CAA client. If you trust Henry Abbott though the Lin issue was that while CAA REALLY wants their stars to succeed, they want them to succeed in the marketing/sponsorship department as well, and with Lin drawing the eyes of fans and media, the worry was that Anthony would be left with the dregs.

    I know that sounds like a conspiracy, but Abbott, who is one of the few people who seems to get info straight from Wesley, pretty much admits it in his recent article on the issue:

    http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/8180308/nba-jeremy-lin-six-degrees-separation-family

    And to me it’s not much of a conspiracy. Teams try to build good business relationships with agents because they know in the future that those agents might help them score with their superstars.

    Maybe it becomes a conspiracy theory when I start reaching for details to support Abbott, but I hope that’s not what this article was about. I really tried to keep it focused on how an agency has gained so much power and what effect it could have on the fan experience.

  13. formido

    The article points out (some of) the built-in forces that incent CAA’s agenda from being properly explored. How do you imagine that will change if folks just say “there’s nothing to see here”? Remember JR Smith, a CAA client, tweeting about family the same day Lin was let go? And then of course his gleeful retweet of Howard Beck’s article. JR Smith supposedly took less money, Brewer took less money, Woodson switched to CAA. Lin refused CAA and refused less money–something no person in his position has ever been begrudged up until now–and then is let go…it stretches credulity that CAA wasn’t involved. Isaiah Thomas is still close to Dolan and he’s close to all the CAA guys.

    Also, I’m pretty sure everyone loves Chris Rock:

    Chris Rock ?@chrisrock
    July 18, 2012If linn were a 23 old black kid who came straight from high school and had tat on his neck that said thug life and happened to score 38 points on the lakers I don’t think anyone would question his contract.

    16 Jul Chris Rock ?@chrisrock
    Jeremy linn I’ve never seen grown men hate on another mans money like this in my life .

    15 Jul Chris Rock ?@chrisrock
    Please knicks keep linn lets not have a brand new team for the tenth year in a row. Things have to sit in order to jell.

    Brian Cronin: It’s always interesting to discuss the shadiness of agents in the modern era, but I think the end of the column just went off into such speculative stuff that I don’t think it was as helpful. We really don’t know what role, if any, CAA played in Lin’s departure, so it seems a bit much to discuss it in any great length. Maybe in the future we will learn more details, but for now, it seems premature.

  14. MeloDrama

    formido:
    The article points out (some of) the built-in forces that incent CAA’s agenda from being properly explored. How do you imagine that will change if folks just say “there’s nothing to see here”? Remember JR Smith, a CAA client, tweeting about family the same day Lin was let go? And then of course his gleeful retweet of Howard Beck’s article. JR Smith supposedly took less money, Brewer took less money, Woodson switched to CAA. Lin refused CAA and refused less money–something no person in his position has ever been begrudged up until now–and then is let go…it stretches credulity that CAA wasn’t involved. Isaiah Thomas is still close to Dolan and he’s close to all the CAA guys.

    I tend to agree. The heart of CAA’s power with the Knicks lies with Anthony; the day he ceases being the biggest star in New York is the day Dolan might stop bending over backwards to accommodate Melo and crew.

    Lin refusing to sign with them, but remaining a major threat to overtake Anthony in star stature, made him a guy that everyone involved with CAA likely would have liked to see shipped out.

    Once the opportunity came, Thomas probably started whispering in Dolan’s ear and next thing you know, snarky tweets about dribbling with your left pop up, as if to let the fans know “LOL I still run this thing.”

  15. max fisher-cohen Post author

    ephus:
    I do not see the evidence that the Knicks “played nice” with Eddy Curry because he was a CAA client.From 2008-09 through 2010-11, the Knicks treated Curry as a sunk cost.They had foolishly provided him a five year contract as part of the trade from the Bulls.Waiving Curry would not have saved the Knicks any money, only deprived them of a potential trade asset.They let Curry work out on his own, in the hope that he would return to playing condition.New York did not waste much playing time over the last three seasons (11 games over the three seasons, with none in 2010-11).

    The linked articles demonstrate that CAA (and Worldwide Wes personally) engaged in a lot of effort to try to get Curry back on the court.JR Smith (long before he was a Knick) was one of the players brought in to work out with Curry.But that is just an agent attempting to salvage the career of a client, not an example of a conspiracy.

    True. The Eddy Curry stuff probably should have been left out of the article or used as support for CAA’s good side.

  16. MeloDrama

    sidestep:
    If I get the CAA story offered here and touched on at ESPN, it goes something like this: had Lin signed with CAA, he’d still be on the Knicks. At the same time, the story is that since CAA represents Melo and they didn’t want Lin taking away the spotlight and marketability of their guy Melo, they maneuvered to get rid of Lin. These two stories don’t mesh, and are even contradictory. So, if CAA represented Lin and kept him on the Knicks, there would still be the same issue of Lin diminishing Melo’s presence such that CAA would have internally contradictory interests. Internally contradictory interests doesn’t make for a compelling conspiracy.

    I don’t agree with that; it’s in CAA’s overall interest to control New York and having its biggest stars allows them to do that. With Lin, it might ruffle Carmelo’s feathers, but CAA one way or another has NYK’s biggest star or Dynamic Duo.

    If they don’t have Lin, though, and Lin becomes the team’s biggest star, then they begin to lose their power.

    LeBron “diminished” Wade’s star in the same way Melo and Lin might have drawn from one another, but CAA had no issue with that pairing.

  17. ephus

    If CAA’s desires for Anthony (or, indeed, Anthony’s own desires) was to be on a contender, why wouldn’t he join the Knicks as a free agent, just as the Heat’s stars did?

    Because Carmelo Anthony had three goals, not just one: (1) Get a maximum three year extension under the old CBA , (2) Get to the Knicks, and (3) Play on a team with a strong roster. When the Knicks and the Nuggets were negotiating, nobody knew what the provisions of the new CBA would be, but everyone expected that they would reduce the ability of a new team (like the Knicks) to make an offer to a UFA. It was expected that the overall salary cap would go down, that the maximum salary/year would be reduced and that the maximum length of the contract would also be slashed.

    Anthony (as advised by CAA) did not want to take the risk that the Knicks would wait until he became a UFA to make a deal, because Anthony might not be able to get as lucrative a contract under the new CBA from the Knicks as he could if signed under the old CBA. As it turns out, the difference between the contract ‘Melo signed and the contract he could have signed as a UFA under the new CBA was minimal (about 2% different per year). But he had no way to know that when he was making his decision.

    ‘Melo also was not willing to eliminate the possibiliity that he might sign a max extension with another team to which he was traded, because he did not want to take the risk that the Knicks would wait until summer. Once the Nuggets could yield the credible threat that they would trade ‘Melo elsewhere (New Jersey) and that he might sign an extension there, the Knicks had much less leverage in the negotiations with the Nuggets.

    Last point, the roster issues were less stark than we usually think because IIRC the Knicks would have had to renounce Gallinari and Chandler to have enough cap room to make a UFA max offer to ‘Melo. The extra leverage cost Felton, Mozgov, AntRan and…

  18. ruruland

    All of this sounds plausible on its face, and there’s surely at least a kernel of truth to CAA’s impact, and naturally there’s little reason to trust media organizations today, but it’s still speculation.

    Why did Carmelo, Woodson and Chandler meet in L.A.? Chandler is not a CAA client, so clearly this was not about convincing Lin to change agents.

    Moreover, reports about the meeting from organizations that surely aren’t favored CAA members indicated that the meeting was about next season.

    So, why did Melo attend the meeting?

  19. max fisher-cohen Post author

    Ephus, I don’t dispute Anthony’s concerns/desires. What I was trying to point out is that they conflict with Abbott’s claim that CAA is all about helping their stars get championships, and that perhaps because the sponsorship opportunities that result from said championships are worth more than the money you might sacrifice in a smaller contract (James, Wade and Bosh all took contracts that were probably the low end of what people expected a max contract to be under the new CBA), or maybe because it’s personally rewarding to the player to be in a winning situation. The fact that LBJ and co. made those sacrifices and Anthony didn’t cast doubt onto CAA’s intentions.

    First, Gallo was not an RFA in summer 2011. He would have been an RFA this offseason if not for the fact that Denver had already extended him. That means he only would have counted for his rookie salary in summer 2011, something like $4m I believe? It also means we could have extended him with bird rights after Anthony was brought in. As far as the other assets that we gave up for Melo, who cares whether we would have kept them? They were assets that could have been moved for more liquid assets. Chandler (via S&T) and Felton might have each netted a mid to late first round pick. Not to mention the draft pick and draft pick swaps that were part of the deal. So if you say the net total value of those assets was 4 first round picks, that right there is the sort of cache that might have brought Chris Paul to his supposed desired location, New York City.

    I don’t want to open up the argument about whether we gained or lost overall in the Melo trade. I do think though it’s undeniable though that we gave up significant assets in that trade.

  20. Jafa

    ruruland:
    All of this sounds plausible on its face, and there’s surely at least a kernel of truth to CAA’s impact, and naturally there’s little reason to trust media organizations today, but it’s still speculation.

    Why did Carmelo, Woodson and Chandler meet in L.A.?Chandler is not a CAA client, so clearly this was not about convincing Lin to change agents.

    Moreover, reports about the meeting from organizations that surely aren’t favored CAA members indicated that the meeting was about next season.

    So, why did Melo attend the meeting?

    “Likewise, one could point towards the shady way the team was assembled, with James, Wade and Bosh flirting with other teams for months leading up to and into the free agency period of 2010. Some might call their debutante-esque behavior part of CAA’s power play.” – from the article.

    Why flirt with teams, giving the appearance that they have an equal shot at landing you when you know the deck is stacked (die is loaded) and you have already pre-arranged to join your friends in South Beach? Part of CAA’s power play.

    Melo/Woodson going out there to talk to Lin (and even Woodson declaring him the starting PG) clears their name when Lin is not signed. It allows for them to say “hey, we tried to convince him to stay, but ownership/the Rockets/Lin’s greed got in the way”.

    They’ve learned from “the decision” how to provide better cover for their clients when the backlash comes.

  21. ruruland

    max fisher-cohen:
    Ephus, I don’t dispute Anthony’s concerns/desires. What I was trying to point out is that they conflict with Abbott’s claim that CAA is all about helping their stars get championships, and that perhaps because the sponsorship opportunities that result from said championships are worth more than the money you might sacrifice in a smaller contract (James, Wade and Bosh all took contracts that were probably the low end of what people expected a max contract to be under the new CBA), or maybe because it’s personally rewarding to the player to be in a winning situation. The fact that LBJ and co. made those sacrifices and Anthony didn’t cast doubt onto CAA’s intentions.

    There’s a lot more conflict of interest in trying to get each group of clients a championship than there is in trying to get each client paid.

    Is it very hard to believe that there are different circumstances and goals in each instance, or does that not fit the MSG/CAA conspiracy?

  22. ruruland

    Jafa: “Likewise, one could point towards the shady way the team was assembled, with James, Wade and Bosh flirting with other teams for months leading up to and into the free agency period of 2010. Some might call their debutante-esque behavior part of CAA’s power play.” – from the article.

    Why flirt with teams, giving the appearance that they have an equal shot at landing you when you know the deck is stacked (die is loaded) and you have already pre-arranged to join your friends in South Beach?Part of CAA’s power play.

    Melo/Woodson going out there to talk to Lin (and even Woodson declaring him the starting PG) clears their name when Lin is not signed.It allows for them to say “hey, we tried to convince him to stay, but ownership/the Rockets/Lin’s greed got in the way”.

    They’ve learned from “the decision” how to provide better cover for their clients when the backlash comes.

    You’re joking, right?

  23. ephus

    The article linked regarding Lin’s change of agent says nothing about CAA wanting to bring him in. Lin went with a totally different model by using Williams & Connolly, which is a law firm not a talent agency. Was there any reporting that CAA pitched Lin and were rejected?

    On the other hand, I am really surprised at the very cramped view of conflict of interest that the NBPA appears to have adopted regarding player agents. The NBPA Agent Code of Conduct bars a player agent from representing a coach or GM, or from accepting any money from a team under circumstances that would appear to create a conflict of interest. But, if I understand the situation, the NBPA does not impute that conflict of interest based upon the activity of two agents at the same firm. So one CAA employee can represent Carmelo Anthony while a different CAA employee represents MSG in negotiating media rights, corporate sponsorships and other big ticket items. Either Billy Hunter or David Stern could put an end to this, if they wanted to.

    I credit Max for drawing attention to the July 4 tweet about Felton coming back to the Knicks. If the Knicks already had committed to bring in Felton before Lin got his $25 million offer, that is pretty strong evidence that notwithstanding Woodson’s statement that Lin was the starter, the Knicks already had decided not to bring him back. But, I also think it is possible that Felton believed (and may have been fooled into believing) that he had a solid offer when he actually had a contingent offer that would not spring into action unless the Rockets vastly increased their offer sheet.

  24. Z-man

    Eric,
    There are several schools of thought:
    Lin is great and Felton sucks, no-brainer to match
    Lin is somewhat better than Felton but sign both and let them fight it out
    Lin is better for playoffs (your reasons)
    Lin is the better fit
    Felton is better for playoffs (hard-nosed defender, surer ball handler vs. Pressure, more durable)
    Felton is capable of improving as full-time PG under Kidd’s mentoring and with all-star front line.

    And many other takes…

    You can certainly make a case for your assertions, but at the end of the day, it’s still a guess. Lin has a high ceiling and a low floor. There is no way to know for sure and now we have to wait for more data to find out. I am anxious to see how Lin fares vs. OKC, LAL, LAC before reaching any conclusions. I also expect playoff intensity in our first 2 games. Durability questions won’t be answered until all-star break. Should be fun!

  25. ephus

    Max,

    You asked why Carmelo Anthony did not do what LBJ/Bosh did and just wait until the offseason to move as a free agent without forcing his new team to give up significant assets to bring him in. The answer is that Carmelo Anthony would not take the risk that the new CBA would prevent him from moving and getting the money he could under the old CBA. To me, that is a full and complete explanation that does not require a conspiracy theory.

    I have no doubt that CAA has cultivated a strong relationship with Dolan, and has also whispered to SAS and others to get their message out. But I have not seen sufficient evidence to conclude that CAA was behind the Knicks’ decision not to match the Lin offer sheet. Maybe CAA was involved, but my working hypothesis is that Grunwald planned to bring Lin back on the original offer sheet, but Dolan blew up when he saw the $25 million deal and finally fully understood the tax ramifications.

    Finally, if CAA was agitating for Lin not to resigned, I think the simplest explanation is giving JR Smith a max deal under his Early Bird Rights (starting at $5.3 million) would have created a huge tax liability for the Knicks in 2014-15 if Lin was getting $15 million. Paying both Lin and Smith (assuming no other salaries were dropped) would push the Knicks up into the 425% tax bracket.

  26. Cousyfan

    The only rerason why Lin refused to join CAA was because CAA insisted that Lin drops his (first-and-only, one-office) agent Roger Montgonery.
    Lin will never abandon the only agent who signed him out of Harvard.
    Cheers!

  27. max fisher-cohen Post author

    Ephus, from the third paragraph of the article: “Powerhouse agency CAA also tried to sign Lin, but failed.”

    ruruland: There’s a lot more conflict of interest in trying to get each group of clients a championship than there is in trying to get each client paid.

    Is it very hard to believe that there are different circumstances and goals in each instance, or does that not fit the MSG/CAA conspiracy?

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re suggesting, but if you’re saying CAA might not be doing in NYC what they did in Miami (because few players have the talent and the long term marketing vision that Lebron has) then I agree with you. The vision I was disputing was the one Abbott made in his article on Lin – an argument I assume is based on conversations with Wesley – that CAA is this beneficent organization, working to not only make its superstars rich, but to build super-teams that the press will fawn over, and help the teams they work with win championships. That angle, in my opinion, is a very thick coat of sugar over the story.

  28. BigBlueAL

    Am I the only one annoyed the Knicks in the middle of January have to fly to freaking London to play a road game vs the Pistons?? Sounds very inconvenient. At least they have 3 days off before and after the game but all that does is compress the rest of the schedule.

  29. Jafa

    ruruland: You’re joking, right?

    The joke is that you seem naive enough to deny CAA’s involvement in the Knicks front-office. Dolan, who has paid $195 M in luxury taxes over a 7 year period (approximately $28 M/year) all of a sudden decides he is not willing to bring back a young starting PG because of the luxury tax implications? We are really supposed to buy that line?

    http://www.shamsports.com/media/tax.jpg

  30. ephus

    Sorry that I missed the sentence about CAA trying to sign Lin. Thanks for pointing it out.

  31. ephus

    Jafa: The joke is that you seem naive enough to deny CAA’s involvement in the Knicks front-office.Dolan, who has paid $195 M in luxury taxes over a 7 year period (approximately $28 M/year) all of a sudden decides he is not willing to bring back a young starting PG because of the luxury tax implications?We are really supposed to buy that line?

    http://www.shamsports.com/media/tax.jpg

    But Jafa, the tax system is totally different now because of the graduated rates.

    I would not surprised if CAA whispered in Dolan’s ear that he was going to have to make a choice between keeping Lin this year and keeping JR Smith next year. And I also could see Dolan making the ridiculous decision to give up on Lin now rather than kicking the can down the road for a year (at a tax hit of $5 million) and then evaluating what he could do with Lin.

  32. ruruland

    Jafa: The joke is that you seem naive enough to deny CAA’s involvement in the Knicks front-office.Dolan, who has paid $195 M in luxury taxes over a 7 year period (approximately $28 M/year) all of a sudden decides he is not willing to bring back a young starting PG because of the luxury tax implications?We are really supposed to buy that line?

    http://www.shamsports.com/media/tax.jpg

    Why did CAA persuade Carmelo to go to NY where they had an established non-CAA star in Amar’e Stoudemire?

  33. ruruland

    max fisher-cohen:
    Ephus, from the third paragraph of the article: “Powerhouse agency CAA also tried to sign Lin, but failed.”

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re suggesting, but if you’re saying CAA might not be doing in NYC what they did in Miami (because few players have the talent and the long term marketing vision that Lebron has) then I agree with you. The vision I was disputing was the one Abbott made in his article on Lin – an argument I assume is based on conversations with Wesley – that CAA is this beneficent organization, working to not only make its superstars rich, but to build super-teams that the press will fawn over, and help the teams they work with win championships. That angle, in my opinion, is a very thick coat of sugar over the story.

    Well, if the latter is just a coat of sugar, then what is the conspiracy, that CAA got Melo paid and helped get Lebron surrounded by other well-paid stars, as he presumably desired???

  34. Caleb

    ephus: But Jafa, the tax system is totally different now because of the graduated rates.

    I would not surprised if CAA whispered in Dolan’s ear that he was going to have to make a choice between keeping Lin this year and keeping JR Smith next year.And I also could see Dolan making the ridiculous decision to give up on Lin now rather than kicking the can down the road for a year (at a tax hit of $5 million) and then evaluating what he could do with Lin.

    This is on the money – it’s right out in the open. No one thinks JR Smith signed here without thinking he’ll get a bigger deal a year from now, and anyone can see that the Knicks would be in full-in luxury tax territory, with Lin.

    Some of the language is a little overboiled, but the thrust of the article is accurate – agents play a big role in the business, especially powerful ones, and CAA is powerful. You don’t have to see this as an evil conspiracy. But when you look at the business, keep in mind: agents are looking out for their own best interests, which generally aligns with the best interests of their clients – the best interests of owners & teams is irrelevant.

    Sometimes, it takes a leap of faith – like JR accepting this year’s contract, on the faith that a big fish like CAA can angle to get him a bigger contract in a year or two.

    Sometimes this faith will be misplaced; CAA (like any agency) will always put the interests of its biggest stars first. You might be better repped as the #1 client of a smaller agency, but then again, you might not.

    Oh, and Williams & Connolly is not just a law firm but a huge talent agency, repping a lot of high-profile authors in particular (like past presidents). They also rep Grant Hill, Tim Duncan and Ray Allen.

  35. ephus

    If CAA really is pulling the strings at MSG (and promising to steer clients to NY), then there is at least a glimmer of hope that Chris Paul will insist on being traded here at the deadline. He could easily threaten the Clippers that he will go to the Hawks during the offseason if he does not get traded to the Knicks. Chandler + Shumpert for Chris Paul works.

  36. max fisher-cohen Post author

    ephus:
    If CAA really is pulling the strings at MSG (and promising to steer clients to NY), then there is at least a glimmer of hope that Chris Paul will insist on being traded here at the deadline.He could easily threaten the Clippers that he will go to the Hawks during the offseason if he does not get traded to the Knicks.Chandler + Shumpert for Chris Paul works.

    I imagine this is the idea Dolan and co have been sold. The question is are they being played as they were with Lebron, or does CAA really have the level of influence to make such a lopsided deal happen? To me, especially after what they gave up for Paul, it’s hard for me to believe LAC would ever go for such a deal, and NY doesn’t have much else to throw in to sweeten the deal… unless it’s Carmelo, something that won’t happen for dozens of reasons.

  37. ephus

    If Sterling believes the threat that Paul will walk away in the summer and leave the Clippers with nothing, he might be willing to trade with the Knicks. The Knicks best offer would be Chandler, Shumpert (if proven healthy) and a PG (Felton or Kidd). This would also create a $2.5 million trade exception for the Clippers. Knicks do not have a tradable first round pick until 2016 (and Denver holds the right to swap that pick for their 2016 first round pick).

  38. exel

    ephus:
    If Sterling believes the threat that Paul will walk away in the summer and leave the Clippers with nothing, he might be willing to trade with the Knicks.The Knicks best offer would be Chandler, Shumpert (if proven healthy) and a PG (Felton or Kidd).This would also create a $2.5 million trade exception for the Clippers.Knicks do not have a tradable first round pick until 2016 (and Denver holds the right to swap that pick for their 2016 first round pick).

    I thought we still had our 2013 first round pick. I think we might be able to Chandler, Felton/Kidd and our 2013 pick for CP3.

  39. Brian Cronin

    The Knicks have their 2013 pick but they can’t trade it because you’re not allowed to not have a first rounder in back-to-back years and the Nuggets have the Knicks’ 2014 pick.

  40. ephus

    Knicks do have the 2013 First Round pick, but cannot trade it because the Nuggets already have the Knicks 2014 First Round pick. A team cannot leave itself without a first round pick in two consecutive future drafts.

    If CAA bullies a Chris Paul to NY trade, it will not be about the Clippers feeling they have gotten fair value. The issue will be whether Sterling credits Paul’s threat not to resign in Los Angeles and take less money and fewer years to go to Atlanta. Even then, Sterling would only do the deal if he would rather have Chandler + Shumpert (plus Felton/Kidd or a $2.5 million trade exception) than salary cap room to pursue 2013 free agents (which should include Dwight Howard).

  41. Brian Cronin

    By the way, if ever there was an owner that that rule was invented for, it was James Dolan. If not for that rule, the Knicks would never have a first round pick ever.

  42. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, I was just explaining the rule the other day to my brother. I was telling him how Stepian not only had that rule named after him, but Stepian also led to the seven-year rule, where you can’t trade draft picks more than seven years ahead of time (is it five years now?).

  43. ruruland

    Jeremy (NY)

    why does the media keep reporting that melo and lin had a poor relationship? seems to be the opposite from what all the players are saying on both sides. other sources back up that sentiment too.

    Jared Zwerling
    (12:18 PM)

    I didn’t get into that. I tend to think that stuff is more speculation, people looking for a story. From my account, I did hear that Melo supported Lin getting playing time at the start of Linsanity. They did seem friendly off the court when I was around them, and those I know who are close to Lin say he didn’t have a problem with Melo. Also, they had dinner together in Los Angeles, along with Woodson, in June to discuss the upcoming season, and Woodson kept saying Lin would be the starting point guard.

  44. jon abbey

    Zwerling would be a below average poster here, very disappointed in him thus far.

    “From my account, I did hear that Melo supported Lin getting playing time at the start of Linsanity. ”

    yes, we all “heard” that, and then D’Antoni said it wasn’t true (before he was fired, no real reason to lie).

  45. er

    Well that’s not true he did have a reason to lie……but I’m not saying he did. Also I agree media looking for a story because they know Melos personality he is kind of a different type of guy….he isn’t like KD who is glowing with exuberance, Melo is kinda like eh let’s just play bro. He isn’t into the whole media game so its easy to kinda lead the audience into a story, and the few times he actually says things he says the wrong things Ie after dantoni in regards to effort and the ridiculous Lin comment. He just isn’t media savvy in terms of ” saying what you are supposed to say”

    jon abbey:
    Zwerling would be a below average poster here, very disappointed in him thus far.

    “From my account, I did hear that Melo supported Lin getting playing time at the start of Linsanity. ”

    yes, we all “heard” that, and then D’Antoni said it wasn’t true (before he was fired, no real reason to lie).

  46. StatsTeacher

    wonder when that came into being, as the maddest scientist ever —- one Don Nelson traded Penny Hardaway and 3 1st round picks (consecutive, I believe) for CWebb on draft night. Then he yelled and screamed at CWebb so he left (there was an option in his contract) and GS got nothing back (if memory serves).

    ephus:
    Ironically, the rule is called the Stepien Rule after a prior Cleveland owner who traded away his first round picks years into the future, including one that turned into James Worthy.

    http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q84

  47. StatsTeacher

    From Wiki:

    Webber was selected by the Orlando Magic with the first pick of the 1993 NBA Draft, becoming the first sophomore since Magic Johnson to be a #1 overall draft pick.[2] The Magic immediately traded him to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Anfernee Hardaway and three future first round draft picks. Over his 15 year NBA career, Webber made over $176,000,000.[4]

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