Jaylen Brown could change how rookies enter the league
Over the next several weeks, college players will declare for the NBA Draft and begin the process of hiring agents.
The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown went through the same process a year ago, interviewing prospective representatives during the lead-up to the June draft.
Brown’s decision: none of the above.
Brown is one of the few NBA players without an agent. Instead, he decided to hire representatives who specialized in the departments in which he needed assistance. For example, Aaron Goodwin helped Brown procure his shoe deal with Adidas.
Brown, the third overall pick following his freshman season at the University of California, leaned on friends and college professors for advice. He still does not have an agent.
Since the rookie salary scale is structured — unlike a generation ago, when rookies could sign for whatever amount agreed upon — the negotiation of a rookie contract is not that painstaking. Brown said he studied exactly what tasks he would need to accomplish entering the NBA, and with his family’s consultation hired people for specific assignments.
While NBA prospects are attracted to large agencies such as Creative Artists Agency, Roc Nation, and Klutch Sports, Brown said he is content to remain solo.
“I did my process, I interviewed a few agencies, did my due diligence, and I just didn’t feel like I needed the services they [offered],” he said. “I just felt like I didn’t really need one. I had a good group of mentors who gave me pretty much the resources that I needed, so they made me feel like I actually didn’t need one.”
NBA agents have increased their profiles over the years with the fusion of basketball and hip-hop. Perhaps this generation is too young to remember the movie “Jerry Maguire,” but the theme may still hold — one element of becoming a professional athlete is hiring the slick agent to represent your interests.
“When you think about what an agent is, about giving somebody basically the right to speak for you, the right to represent you, what my mom and what my parents have always taught me is you can speak for yourself and you can represent yourself,” Brown said. “When I thought about it, I felt more comfortable representing myself and going through the avenues and sitting down and talking to people and at least getting that learning curve before I have somebody step in for me and not even knowing what I really need.
“It was all a learning process. The first part of the learning curve was going to the [draft] combine.”
Brown went to the combine in Chicago last year with only his personal trainer.
“A lot of my peers, they came with an entourage, an agent, a representative,” he said. “We were focused on working out. It was interesting. I took a lot of notes, a lot of my mentors told me to jot down what you see.
“It was interesting, a lot of them are almost like being babied. They’re having somebody handle things that’s not even necessary for them to handle, that they could easily handle themselves. It hinders that learning experience. If you don’t even know what you’re heading into yourself, how do you know what you need an agent for?
“I wanted to figure out what I could handle and couldn’t handle, then I could put somebody in the spot where I needed the most. I haven’t had the need for somebody to just do everything. I believe in specialization. I believe people are really good at some things and I don’t believe that everybody is really good at everything. I think I was the highest pick to ever be drafted without an agent.”
His decision created some controversy among NBA circles.
“People were curious and I think people are still curious,” Brown said. “It’s one of those things where some people like it, some people hate it. I was trying to do what was best for me. For me in that time, not hiring an agent was the right thing to do.”
And Brown said he would suggest to prospective draftees that they at least investigate the possibility of self-representation.
“Explore your options,” he said. “Understand that you can speak for yourself and you can advocate for yourself. You don’t need somebody in every aspect to do that for you. If I want anybody to learn [something] from my draft experience, it’s to think for yourself.”
Wizards cohesive and dangerous
There has been a renaissance in Washington and it has nothing to do with politics. It’s the local NBA team, which has rebounded from a terrible start to surge to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference under coach Scott Brooks.
When it was mentioned that he is a top candidate for Coach of the Year, Brooks said, “Nah, I don’t want that award. I got fired a few years after winning it in Oklahoma City.”
Brooks won the award in the 2009-10 season, and was fired by the Thunder five years later following a season in which Kevin Durant (foot surgery) missed 55 games and Russell Westbrook (various injuries) missed 15. Brooks was considered a premium coach, so after taking a year off, it was no surprise he was hired to replace Randy Wittman to lead the talented but underachieving Wizards.
Yet, Washington was just 7-13 after losing at home to Orlando on Dec. 6, and there were rumors of management breaking up the team, including the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
But Washington began to protect its home court, strung together some wins, and gained confidence, becoming one of the league’s best offensive teams. The Wizards entered Friday fifth in the league in scoring, fourth in field goal percentage, and seventh in 3-point percentage. Wall and Beal are having career seasons, and Washington bolstered its bench by picking up Brandon Jennings and Bojan Bogdanovic at the trade deadline.
The Wizards are headed back to the playoffs after a one-year absence, and they’re a team no one wants to face.
“Our players just kept believing in one another and kept improving as the season has gone on,” Brooks said. “We’re all lucky it wasn’t a 10-game season or otherwise we would have been done early. We know we’re trying to build a culture of being consistent in our approach. And give our guys credit, our guys have done that every month. That’s important to all of us. I’m glad they’ve taken that approach.”
Washington was aggressive at the deadline, nabbing Bogdanovic and prospect Chris McCullough from Brooklyn for the unwanted contract of Andrew Nicholson, former Celtic Marcus Thornton (who was waived), and a first-round pick. (Because the Nets have to swap first-round picks with the Celtics and owe Boston their 2018 first-rounder, Brooklyn is hungry for draft picks.)
Bogdanovic has been the most productive deadline acquisition in the NBA, averaging 14.6 points off the bench through 16 games with Washington, including a 29-point outburst and two 27-point games.
“He’s been terrific,” Brooks said. “He’s one of the premier knockdown shooters in this league and now we have two at that spot with Otto [Porter]. They can play together. Any time you have shooting on the floor, that helps. It’s one of the things we’ve worked on throughout this season. We started off shooting the ball so bad. I didn’t think we were going to be that bad. And now that we added him, it gives us another addition to that 3-point game to keep improving that.”
The fact that Jennings asked out of his contract with the Knicks to join the Wizards is a testament to the organization’s growth in the past few months.
“I think it’s important to establish an environment that players want to come and play in,” Brooks said. “We take pride in building a culture of winning and when you have guys that have good character that’s just about winning, it makes it an attractive place to come to. We’ve got a young core that’s going to be around a long time. With Brad and John not even in the middle of their prime, we’ve just got to keep working together.”
On Saturday, the Wizards began a five-game trip, part of playing eight of their final 10 regular-season games on the road. Brooks believes this stretch will be a litmus test for the playoffs.
“I looked at the schedule before the season knowing that March was going to be very challenging with 12 games out of 18 on the road and six back-to-backs. When you want to establish a playoff mentality, that can help,” he said.
“We’re going to be on the road, a lot of difficult environments and a lot of tough situations, but it’s only going to help you because once the playoffs come, every game is magnified, every possession is important. We look at it as a challenge, but we’ve embraced it. We were decent on the first road trip, but hopefully we can continue to play well, but we have to get better defensively. Our team is a good team when we defend.”
Said Beal: “We can be really good, but I think we can be even better if we could defend on top of that, we probably would even have more chances to score. We trust each other. We don’t care who scores the most points. It’s just a matter of us getting a great shot each time and make sure we’re moving the ball.”
Beal, who is averaging 23.1 points per game, has missed just four games after sitting out 46 games over the past two seasons. His chemistry with Wall has improved after the two occasionally clashed the past few years.
“It’s always growing,” Beal said of his cohesion with Wall. “It’s grown since we first got here together. It’s always been that way. We’re constantly getting better, getting more mature. The game is slowing down year by year for us and we know the team won’t go far unless we lead them, unless we’re on the same page. We understand that each night. We go out and try to win our matchup and lead the best way we can.”
Ainge: Allen had his reasons
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has his own perspective on why Ray Allen left the Celtics for the Heat after the 2011-12 season, a move that still rankles some former teammates in Boston. That issue recently resurfaced when Rajon Rondo told the Globe that Allen wouldn’t be invited to his summer reunion of the 2007-08 championship team.
Ainge said Allen would “absolutely” be invited to the Celtics’ official title-team reunion.
“Sounds to me like somebody’s trying to organize an event of their choosing and not include somebody in the deal,” Ainge said.
Celtics management wasn’t thrilled by Allen’s departure, either. But Ainge and Allen talked and golfed together last summer when Allen was considering an NBA comeback. Allen had several offers to return the past few years — he hasn’t played since the 2014 playoffs — including from the Cavaliers, Bucks, and Celtics. Allen officially retired last fall, which means he’ll be eligible for the same Basketball Hall of Fame class as former Boston teammate Kevin Garnett, who still harbors resentment toward Allen for spurning the Celtics for Miami.
“I talked with Ray this summer,” Ainge said. “Something that I won’t talk about is what I believe are reasons why Ray went to Miami. I feel I have as good of an insight as anybody other than Ray. And I think that it’s not simple, it’s complex. But I don’t hold any grudges.”
The Celtics had trouble reaching Allen in the early stages of free agency after the 2011-12 season and had already signed Jason Terry. Boston offered Allen a two-year package worth $12 million. Allen was offended by the Terry signing, although Ainge tried to convince him the guards could play together.
Allen was wooed by Heat president Pat Riley, team owner Micky Arison, and Miami stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Allen took Miami’s offer, which was for less money but included a third year.
Also, Allen’s difficult relationship with Rondo encouraged him to pursue a fresh start. Rondo’s ball-controlling style annoyed Allen, who wanted the ball in certain spots when coming off screens.
So while Allen’s defection to Miami was viewed as a betrayal by his Celtic teammates, he had his reasons for leaving. But with the Celtics organization, all has been forgiven.
One prospect to watch in the draft is Wake Forest forward/center John Collins, who is expected to hire an agent. Collins, 19, could emerge as a pick-and-pop forward at the next level. Strong predraft workouts against his peers could boost his stock.
The same could be said for Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes, who entered the draft last season (and worked out for the Celtics) before returning for his senior year. While most of the top draft prospects are freshmen, expect teams to take notice of veteran college players who can contribute immediately, thanks to the recent success of Draymond Green and Malcolm Brogdon, who became Milwaukee’s starting point guard as a rookie . . . Philadelphia’s Dario Saric is making a serious bid to win Rookie of the Year with a stellar second half. The Celtics can attest to his prowess as Saric had 23 points in Philadelphia’s upset win last Sunday. Since the All-Star break, Saric is averaging 19 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Saric has taken over the offensive load with Joel Embiid having not played since Jan. 27 (and needing surgery for a torn meniscus). Saric, Embiid, and Brogdon are the only rookies averaging double figures in points . . . With the season winding down in the Chinese Basketball Association, a lot of American players are looking to hook on domestically, including former Celtic MarShon Brooks, who averaged 36.2 points for Jiangsu Nangang. Jimmer Fredette led the league with a 37.6-point average. But it’s unlikely that playoff-bound NBA teams would add players so late in the season . . . The Celtics bid on former Sacramento and New Orleans swingman Omri Casspi, but the impending free agent signed with the lottery-bound Timberwolves with the hope of receiving more playing time. Many free agents who recently signed chose non-playoff teams over postseason qualifiers for the same reason, to get more court time and improve their stock in free agency.