The National Basketball Players Association has been looking into an existing, but rarely enforced, rule banning from agents representing both players and coaches.
The union has found a simple solution: Enforce it.
The National Basketball Players Association is cracking down on agents, including a decision to begin enforcing a long-ignored rule forbidding player agents from simultaneously representing coaches and management, CBS Sports has learned.
The union’s executive committee voted unanimously — 9-0 — during All-Star weekend in Toronto to leave the regulation on the books and mount an enforcement campaign, league sources said. In addition to suspension and decertification, agents found to have violated the rule could face fines up to $100,000, according to a person familiar with the guidelines.
A memo is going out to all certified player representatives alerting them to the change as early as Friday, league sources said. A grace period is expected so that players and agents can get their affairs in order.
The union’s executive committee:
- Chris Paul
- LeBron James
- James Jones
- Stephen Curry
- Kyle Korver
- Steve Blake
- Andre Iguodala
- Anthony Tolliver
- Carmelo Anthony
LeBron’s inclusion is noteworthy, because his agent – Rich Paul, with whom he’s very close – also represents Mark Jackson. I wonder whom Paul will keep as a client.
The biggest example to this double-dipping is Jeff Schwartz, who has represented Bucks coach(/de facto general manager) Jason Kidd and several Milwaukee players. But Schwartz illustrates why this rule might not actually help players on the whole.
The Kidd-run Bucks have a mixed record with Schwartz clients. Milwaukee re-signed Khris Middleton last summer for what appeared to be less than market value. But the Bucks also paid a premium to trade for Michael Carter-Williams, who appeared unhappy with the tanking 76ers. These relationships can work both ways, for and against players.
The bigger and more common conflict of interest comes when an agent represents multiple players going for the same job, though that one is probably unavoidable.
Still, the union was wise to do something here. Leaving an unenforced rule on the books only opens the door for selective enforcement. Enforce the rule or rescind it, and the players chose the former.
They just didn’t do so in a way with much teeth.
It will continue to be OK for different agents within the same agency to represent players, coaches and management, so long as they are separated by a so-called “Chinese wall,” which is customary in the legal profession. But some in the agent community believe that doesn’t go far enough.
“I asked the union when it was going through the Billy Hunter case, ‘Why don’t you hire the same lawfirm that Billy Hunter is using to defend himself and put up a Chinese wall?” longtime player agent David Falk told CBS Sports. “That’s exactly how absurd it is.”
What a fantastic quote by Falk, one of the clear winners here. More than anyone, agents who represent only players or only coaches benefit. They stand to draw new business as agents representing both must drop clients.
The big questions: How much will this matter, and how frequently will agencies just construct Chinese walls to retain all their clients? Will players come out ahead with this rule being enforced?