Agent rises above player on food chain
Nearly every media outlet in the country has spent the last few days taking shots at Carlos Boozer, the young basketball player who apparently took advantage of a rare kind gesture from a pro sports organization to screw the team over for a pile of cash.
While the cat-and-mouse game between employer and employee is as old as civilization, Boozer has broken new ground. Monday brought the news that Boozer’s agent, Rob Pelinka of SFX Sports Group, has decided he can no longer represent a player who is on the verge of signing a six-year, $68 million deal with the Utah Jazz.
The minute Boozer signs that contract, his agent would instantly earn $2.7 million based on a standard 4 percent commission. Assuming Pelinka is leaving in disgust over Boozer’s betrayal of the Cavaliers, Boozer has done what no player in the history of professional sports could manage: he’s become sleazier than an agent.
Remember, an agent’s job is to get his client as much money as possible. The only code of conduct is the pursuit of the almighty dollar, as the well-publicized machinations of super-sleaze Drew Rosenhaus has shown us over the past few years. Agents steal clients from one another, lie to teams, lie to the media; they’ll do nearly anything short of murder to get that extra buck. An agent taking the high road isn’t likely to meet a lot of his peers on the trip.
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So how did Boozer’s life go so far astray that he’s dropped below agents on the food chain? He (and presumably Pelinka) convinced the Cavaliers to release him from a contract that would have paid him $695,000 next season, a nice piece of change for the general public but unacceptable for a rising NBA star. The understanding was that Boozer would sign a long-term deal for $41 million, the most the Cavs could offer under salary cap restrictions.
But along came the Jazz, offering a huge deal that Cleveland can’t match without tearing up their entire team. Suddenly, the handshake deal was out the window.
(It’s taking all my strength to avoid mentioning that Boozer is a Duke guy. Oh, I just did? My bad.)
What role Pelinka played in all this cloak-and-dagger action is a mystery. Did he negotiate the deal with the Jazz despite the agreement with the Cavaliers? Is he resigning because he’s disgusted with Boozer or he abandoning ship to save his own reputation? Why do the members of the 1993 Michigan basketball team keep running into trouble?
Boozer has until Thursday to sign the Utah offer sheet and drive the knife further into the Cavaliers’ collective backs. The Cavaliers have offered him a one-year, $5 million deal that would allow him to salvage some integrity. So the player has two choices: take the cash and endure public ridicule or play the season for a hefty raise and pray for another good, injury-free season before hitting a huge payday.
What should have been a heartwarming story of trust and cooperation between team and player has become a cautionary tale. The road to hell is still paved with good intentions, assuming your definition of hell is the Central Division cellar.
At what price does integrity come? Apparently Pelinka’s price is somewhere above $2.7 million. We’ll find out Boozer’s by Thursday.
– Tribune staff writer Jared Green can be reached at (530) 542-8008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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