Archives For July 2009

The art of negotiation is one of mankind’s most evolved skills. Humans evolved into our present relatively properous state because of our ancestors (for the most part) realized that bartering and trading increases overall wealth and welfare and the means of maximizing ones welfare is via negotiation. Reasonable discussion to reach understanding, history has shown, and all of us agree, is preferable to fisticuffs.

So it is not surprising that negotiation has evolved into a discipline, a science. Taught at the finest of higher learning establishments, fueled by gurus such as Bill Ury, most people agree that superior negotiation skills is an important corner stone to career success. Unless you are a sports agent.

Bill Ury’s seminal work “Getting to Yes” speaks of reaching common ground with your adversary. Ury espouses quite common sense concepts such as:

  • Treat your opponent with respect
  • Put yourself in their shoes
  • Don’t deduce their intentions from your fear
  • Don’t blame them for your problem
  • Discuss each other’s perceptions
  • Face saving: make your proposals consistent with their values
  • Be patient
  • Speak about yourself, not about them
  • Speak for a purpose
  • Build a working relationship
  • For a wise solution reconcile interests, not positions
  • Ask “Why?” Ask “Why not?” Think about their choice
  • Realize that each side has multiple interests

Unless you are a sports agent.

If you are David Lee, and your qualification as “training” as sports agent is repeated watching of “Jerry MaGuire” on late night TV, you eschew any serious study of the science of negotiation.  After all, didn’t you take audit “So you want to be a Sports Agent, Intro” class at your junior college? Instead of learning from the master negotiators and teachers, you adopt the Hitlerian techniques of:

  • Denounce your opponent in public
  • Paint your opponent in a corner
  • Threaten your opponent with consequences and repercussions
  • Complain about lack of appreciation from your opponent (Boo hoo, my feeling is hurt)
  • Blame your opponent for the lack of agreement

Especially since you saw that when Shaq publicly called out Jerry Buss (“Pay me”, “Pay me”) he caved and paid Shaq whatever he wanted….. wait, maybe Jerry and the Lakers didn’t cave. In fact, the Lakers have demonstrated time and time again that they will not be bullied, like to handle matters in private; and when you treat them the right way, they always treat you fairly.

In John Belushi’s immortal words, “But Noooooo….”

If the failure to learn from history is a sign of stupidity, then consider yourself labeled. It takes a special sort of skill to achieve what David Lee has been able to achieve.

Your client is a role player one year removed from a season ending foot fracture. (There are well-reported fears of a congential foot defect). Your client was a bench player for half the season and his highest points per game was not double digits. Yet he has certain advantages:

1. His team has just won the championship and the GM has stated publicly that his intention is to re-sign your client (You sneered at such weak negotiation skills)

2. Your client is a native of the city, with family and friends.

3. The system the team plays is a perfect fit for your client, who cannot create his own shot

4. Your client is part of a tight community. His teammates and coaches love him and vice versa

6. Your client wants to continue to play for the team

7. The team is the marquee team in the league, playing in a top 2 market, for the champion. Your client will never have more chances to maximize his celebrity into endorsement money.

8. Contrary to how you are spinning it your client, not the burly guy with the words in his hair, was option A , not option B.

Thus, even during the worst bear market for free agents – a buyer’s market – the team is willing to pay your client more than any other team.

And you still can’t get the deal done. Instead, your client has to sign for a team out of contention in now his fourth state (you know that it is hot and humid in Houston right?) for less money than he was offered by the Lakers. This takes a special skill. Your client should have stayed home with family and friends, playing for a champion, in the spotlight, and for more money. But you blew it.

The only reason David Lee does not take the “Worst Sports Agent” in history is because in 2003, Anthony Carter’s agent, Bill Duffy (now gainfully unemployed as a mortgage salesman) failed to file papers with the Miami Heat that his client was exercising his option to remain with the team for $4.1 Million. Surprised at not finding such paperwork, Pat Riley immediately cut Carter and signed Lamar Odom with the increased cap space.

So in the pantheon of worst sports agents in history the standings are as follows:

Gold: Bill Duffy

Silver: David Lee

Bronze: Everybody else.

Don’t worry David, you have plenty of time to catch up to Duffy. Or maybe not.

—Bill Bridges

Ron Artest Will Be A Laker

Kurt —  July 2, 2009

Things are about to get even more interesting for the Lakers.

Ron Artest will be a Laker come July 8 (nothing can be finalized until then, just as a caution). And he comes at a very good price — three years of the mid-level exception. Or three for essentially $18 million. Although some suggest it will be the full five years ($32 mil). That is basically what Trevor Ariza would have cost. (Ariza apparently has an offer from Houston.)

This is the definition of a high risk, high reward move. I’ve got a lot of thoughts.

• I have led the “No on Artest” camp in these parts, but now to me the question is can a combination of Kobe and Phil Jackson keep him playing within his role. As has been said, the question is not “could” he fit in the triangle offense but “would” he. I have serious concerns here, but if he just plays balls out defense, intimidates a little, hits threes (in the rhythm of the offense) and posts guys up when mismatched, we will be fine. The question is will he just do that?

• If Phil Jackson can keep him in line, great. What about the next coach?

• He gives us another guy that can post up — Bynum, Gasol, Kobe, Artest, Odom are all big guys who can post up smaller guys, a tough matchup.

• Artest will be great as a perimeter defender on twos and threes. But the Lakers at times used Ariza on PGs, Artest is not that quick. This puts more pressure on Fisher, Farmar and (if they sign him) Brown to be stoppers.

• He can shoot the three — 40% this season, 38% last season. And he will get a lot more open looks now (if he plays within the system).

• I dare you to call the Lakers soft now.

• That is one thing that Artest brings — intimidation. Not just physically, but because you just don’t know what he is going to do at any given moment, and that is scary. And can win you games.

• Will Kobe and Artest have a “who can get the most technicals” competition next season?

• Every game we will get to ask: What has Ron-Ron carved into his hair tonight?

• Does anyone else have the feeling part of the Lakers looking at Artest was not wanting to deal with the public negotiations of Ariza agent David Lee? They put up with him in the Bynum case because there were no other options — young guys with Bynum’s potential are rare. But quality swingmen who want to be on a contender are more common. Lee tried to get the most for his client, but he negotiates in a very public way and the Lakers are a very private team (in terms of front office dealings).

• I feel bad for Ariza — although I’m not sure if he feels bad. I get that this was his first big kick at the can and he wanted to get paid. But once Portland signs Hedo, the only team that can offer him more than the MLE is Toronto, and they’d have to waive the rights to Marion to do it. The market is set for Ariza, and he may even have trouble getting the full MLE now as teams don’t think they have competition. And he has to leave LA, his hometown. I’m not sure how he feels, but a part of him has to be sad. And I feel for him, we really grew to love him as a player.

LA Lakers at the LA Memorial Coliseum

The genre of the sports list book has received a new addition. This new series that has been released has gone to several of the major sports towns (or at least those with rabid sports fans) and tapped local sports personalities or journalists to create an insiders view of that city’s sports culture. A nice idea, as fans can become agitated by the broad brush strokes that the national media paints a certain town’s fans. In Philly they boo Santa Claus; in New York they are knowledgeable but ruthless; in Boston they’re die hard but eternally pessimistic; in Cleveland they know even when their team is good, at some point they will find a way to lose; and of course, we arrive late, leave early and talk on our cell phones the whole time. (See: “Top 10 Reasons People Say We’re Terrible Fans”) With any stereotype there is a grain of truth, but these books allow the individual city’s to create a more three dimensional view, through guest spots by local athletes and luminaries of the local sports culture.

The authors of the Los Angles book are Matt “Money” Smith and Steve Hartman. Money is the everyman fan in a lot of ways and he’s So Cal to the bone. In his bio at 570 KLAC he lists his favorite sports moment as “Heckling Jim Mcilvaine from the Forum stands and having him try to hop the railing to beat the crap out of me.” He was also an intern at KROQ and is known for breaking “a little band called Sublime.” (It’s also the reason he can sneak in the “Top 11 So Cal Punk Bands You’ve Never Heard of But Should Have” into a sports book.) Steve Hartman is knowledgeable and has a long historic view of sport, but in a lot of ways many see him as insufferable, especially Laker fans who have trouble with his pragmatism and criticism, dubbing him “Hater Hartman”. But for the cause that is the book, they are both good choices.

The book covers all aspects of LA sports: Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, and Kings. For our Laker-centric purposes, we’ll focus on the section that highlights the boys in Forum Blue and Gold.

Top 10 Reasons For A Laker Fan To Own This Book:

1. It will fit nicely into your lavatory library. You can put it into the rotation with Brain Droppings and Nine Stories.

2. It will either enhance your depth of Laker history and take you on a wonderful stroll down memory Lane (Top 10 Greatest Laker Moments) or let the neophytes in on the rich history of the franchise.

3. The folly that is The Clippers.

4. Francis Dale Hearn’s most utilized colloquialisms are included, but you probably could have called that one with Braille.

5. Because FBandG is in it (Best Los Angeles Sports Blogs). Checking in at #4 on the list, and it refers to Kurt as “sound, articulate and interesting”, a spot on assessment to me. But there is a glaring error on this list, and I think I know why.

6. It will help you with your Lakers bar trivia… “Who are the top 10 Johnsons in L.A Sports History?” also known as the “How can we put Magic at the top of another list?” list.

7. You can relive how Jerry West bamboozled the NBA for an extended period of time as G. M. (Mitch has followed in his footsteps with that big Pau Gasol feather in his hat.) But you’ll realize that he did this mostly through his draft picks.

8. Kobe lists his favorite arenas, and many fans are always looking for some insight into who that guy really is, the list is surprisingly nostalgic and emotional. Mentioning the arena’s in Italy, PalaEUR where his dad played, and Philly, “The Palestra is Philly”, as well as being one the guys who played in both the Forum and Staples.

9. “Big Game James” gives us a nice insight into who he felt could have shared his moniker, most of them guys he competed against, but not surprisingly, the top 2 he played with.

10. It will cause/resolve/complicate some good sports related discourse.

I’ll end by quoting the authors…

“Depending on your level of sports knowledge, you will either find this book a great source of information, a great trip down memory lane, or a great reason to insist “these guys don’t know what they are talking about.”

-Gatinho aka Scott Thompson