Posted: Monday October 3, 2011 8:59PM ; Updated: Monday October 3, 2011 9:26PM
Sam Amick

In joint letter, top NBA agents urge players to not back down in talks

Story Highlights

Some of the top NBA agents sent a letter to clients before Tuesday's meeting

They implored players to follow a list of demands for the league and union

The letter speaks to agents' wanting a role in these talks and not trusting the union

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With the NBA lockout stage already set for a Tuesday meeting in New York that may determine whether the regular season starts on time, a group of agents who have been pushing for decertification of the union and whose respective firms represent more than half the league ensured they would be heard before the verdict comes down.

In a letter to their clients, Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), Dan Fegan (Lagardère Unlimited), Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports Management), Leon Rose and Henry Thomas (Creative Artists Agency) and Mark Bartelstein (Priority Sports and Entertainment), outlined what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable going into the biggest day of negotiating yet.

Here are some of the notable demands in the letter, which was obtained by from a player: (Click here for the full letter in PDF):

• With the National Basketball Players' Association having already offered to drop the players' portion of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 52 percent, the agents implore players to insist on "no further reduction of the BRI received by the players. A source close to the union told recently that any agreed-upon deal in which the players received 51 percent could possibly be ratified but would likely lead to the ousting of Billy Hunter as the NBPA's executive director, so this is in line with those parameters.

• A system in which the current structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions remains the same.

• No reduction in salary from existing levels for maximum contract players.

• No changes in unrestricted free agency and improvements on restricted free agency.

• "Refuse any deal that excludes players from the explosive growth of the NBA." Owners' proposals that have started with players receiving 46 percent of the BRI have included drastic declines in their percentage of the pie in the later years of the agreement.

The agents also tell players to make a few demands outside of the proposal as well.

• "Demand that the NBPA submit any proposed agreement to a vote by all NBA players and provide every player with a reasonable amount of time to review and consider the proposed deal." As reported by, players were given less than a day to vote on the owners' proposal in 1998 and only 184 of the 400-plus players actually voted.

• "Demand to see the complete financial records of the owners over the past six seasons, including their related entities (such as regional sports networks and arenas)."

The letter is clearly a preemptive strike on the part of the agents, their best attempt at playing a part in the negotiations and the latest sign of their lack of faith in the NBPA. Yet while players certainly look to their agents for information, insight and advice, the reality is that the majority of them will follow their own instincts when the time comes to vote on a deal. And if a there's one that is less than ideal but lets the season to begin, a fair number of those players will likely be willing to sign off.

Such was the case when one player who attended the union meeting in Los Angeles on Aug. 16 in which Kobe Bryant stood to address the troubled masses. It was, by all accounts, a worthwhile and inspiring speech. But when Bryant spoke of waiting the owners out so that the players could force their way into a good deal, the player turned a deaf ear.

"That's nice, Kobe," the player said in reflecting on that day. "But you've got a little more in the bank than I do."

It is, make no mistake, the sort of sentiment the owners are hoping to bank on and these agents are hoping to eliminate.
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