Olshey, Agents and the Upcoming Free Agency

I wanted to focus on something Blazers-esque, but not tonight' loss or Aldridge' injury, so I started reading about Olshey' history...and followed the rabbit trail...


The 2001 ABCD Camp is where Olshey claims he earned his bones:

"ABCD Camp put me in the mix with all these NBA coaches and front-office guys in an environment I was comfortable in, so that it demystified the 'How do I hire a guy who didn't play in the league?'" Olshey said. "The other part of it was the value from an intel standpoint. When you have to have conversations about Dwight Howard or Shaun Livingston or all the guys in a draft class, you knew them from ABCD camp and from sitting with Sonny in gyms, and getting to know their AAU coaches, and getting to know the kids, eating with them in the dining hall, getting to know their families and learning what kind of people they were. That experience bears fruit."
Olshey called it the place "where I made my bones." It's one thing to have your own gym with your own clients or clients provided by an agency you're consulting; it's quite another to work with top NBA assistants and execs, 200 of the best high schoolers in the country and 75 college standouts who are working as counselors alongside you.

"He worked these kids when they were kids and he got to know them," Vaccaro said. "He has this special ability to communicate and motivate."

Olshey never lacked for confidence -- one team executive recently described him as a guy who walks around with his chest puffed out -- but Olshey also knew he had an unconventional résumé in a business that placed a premium on pedigree. But ABCD Camp was an equalizer.

"At ABCD Camp, we all started on an even playing field," Olshey said. "All those high school kids? All they want to know is are you making them better? They didn't care if you had a Spurs shirt on or a Clippers shirt or an adidas shirt. If you knew what you were doing and you were helping them get better, that's what mattered to them."


The Blazers are currently represented by 5 groups: the Wasserman Media Group, Excel Sports Management, Priority Sports, a few players with other big name agencies, and a few players with their own personal agents.

LaMarcus Aldridge - Wasserman Media Group (Arn Tellem)
Robin Lopez - Wasserman Media Group (Arn Tellem)
Dorell Wright - Wasserman Media Group (Arn Tellem)
Victor Claver - Wasserman Media Group (Arn Tellem)

Meyers Leonard - Excel Sports Management (Jeff Schwartz)
CJ McCollum - Excel Sports Management (Jeff Schwartz/Sam Goldfelder)
Allen Crabbe - Excel Sports Management (Sam Goldfelder)

Mo Williams - Priority Sports (Mark Bartelstein)
Earl Watson - Priority Sports (Mark Bartelstein)

Damian Lillard - Goodman Sports (Aaron Goodman)
Wes Matthews - Octagon (Jeff Austin)
Thomas Robinson - BDA Sports (Bill Duffy)

Nic Batum - Comsport (Bouna Ndiaye) - Less than $7M in other clients
Joel Freeland - Elite Sports (Rafael Calvo) - Only NBA client
Will Barton - Impact Sports (Brian Elfus) - Less than $5M in other clients


What is immediately clear is that Neil Olshey feels very comfortable working with Excel Sports Management, Priority Sports, and the Wasserman Media Group.

Three of his five draft picks have been represented by Excel Sports Management. Four of his five free agent signings/trade acquisitions have been represented by Wasserman Media Group and Priority Sports.

I don't think it's that far of a stretch to believe that Arn Tellem helped facilitate the Robin Lopez trade to the Blazers. One of his all-star clients, Aldridge, had been clamouring for a 7' banger to start beside. Tellem, who also represents Lopez, knew that the Pelicans needed to clear salary to make their free agent moves.

I also wouldn't be surprised if there was a conversation between Olshey and Tellem discussing the Blazers offensive scheme the next two seasons, and Tellem guiding Olshey and Dorell Wright together. The offensive scheme is predicated on 3pt shooting, and Wright consistently shoots 37% from deep (every season).


CAA is the biggest, most successful agency in the world. They represent actors, athletes in every sport, music, television.

David Beckham, Chistiano Ronaldo, Peyton Manning, Shaun White, Sidney Crosby, Adrian Peterson, Derek Jeter, etc.

Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, AC/DC, Green Day, Tim McGraw, Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill, etc.

George Clooney, Jennifer Aniston, Will Ferrell, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Scarlett Johanson, Ashton Kutcher, Keanu Reeves, Will Smith, Bruce Willis, Jennifer Lawrence, Vince Vaugn, Jamie Foxx, etc.

You get the point, everyone... So, when they decided to become a big player in the NBA, there was a bit of concern.

We remember the stories of World Wide Wes, William Wesley, consultant to CAA, about 4 years ago.

CAA then went and signed as many superstars as they could: Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker, etc.

Jay Z' new agency, Roc Nation, is part of the CAA family.


One of my favorite bits in that ESPN story about Olshey' rise (also linked above), is his meeting with Lebron during the 2010 off-season. He had worked with Lebron when he was in high school in various camps, and was thereby given some time to 'court' Lebron during 'the decision', despite representing the Clippers front office.

For Olshey, altering the league's collective opinion of the organization was the most important item on his to-do list, and the Cleveland trip was the opening act of that project. The meeting with James was vital to Olshey's long-term plan to change the way the top power brokers in basketball regarded the Clippers, particularly those at Creative Artists Agency, who had become extremely powerful in recent years as they've stockpiled many of the NBA's shiniest stars.

"What it accomplished from an education and relationship standpoint was to accelerate the learning curve for CAA about our organization and where we were trying to go," Olshey said.

"You kind of have to educate the marketplace a little bit about how we're not the Clippers and whatever perception you might have of the organization: 'The reality is this. These are the guys we've paid. These are the draft picks we've moved. These are the resources we have. This is the practice facility. This is our cap flexibility.'

"So what it did was it basically gave us an hour-and-a-half and the beginnings of a relationship with (agent) Leon Rose and CAA."

Olshey knew that the road to acquiring top talent in the NBA would go through CAA for the foreseeable future. CAA is a savvy, full-service agency that steers its clients to the most desirable employers. When it comes to its most marketable stars, CAA is not inclined to futz around with a franchise if it perceives that a player can't maximize his opportunity for success there. Olshey regarded getting the Clippers off the bad list and on the good list as vital to the health of the franchise, and that could happen only by being proactive.

"Do you really think that prior to Neil Olshey the Clippers would've had the balls to ask for an audience with LeBron James?" Vaccaro said. "Didn't that show the world something right there? We all knew [James] wasn't going there, but Neil did all he could, pulled all the puppet strings and he got the interview."

That was the signal Olshey wanted to transmit to players and agents, particularly Rose and his stable of stars: The Clippers could handle themselves at the NBA's adult table. Olshey wasn't a denialist. He knew the history of the franchise and, more important, he knew that you knew that he knew. But he felt deeply that there were assets to be pitched.

The Blazers aren't one of CAA' teams.

The Miami Heat are CAA agent, Henry Thomas' team. He represents 5 NBA players, three of which are Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Udonis Haslem (plus Chris 'Birdman' Anderson).

The New York Knicks with Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith, Andrea Bargnoni, coach Mike Woodson, and others are clearly a CAA team.

However, the Clippers weren't a CAA team either, but Olshey was able to get Chris Paul to come to the Clippers.

Let us hope that Olshey might have the same type of success in the future with the Blazers, if the time so comes.


Don't think that since CAA represents half the All-star game that they are the only major 'players' going forward.

Clearly, Arn Tellem and Jeff Schwartz are huge players as well, not just for the Blazers. Not only do they represent 7 players currently on the Blazers roster, they have almost 75 of the 450 NBA players as their clients.

Add in Relativity Sports, and those 4 agencies represent over $940M in NBA salaries this year (total salaries for this year is roughly $2020M, and represented by ~100 agencies).

The Brooklyn Nets are basically represented by just three agents: Arn Tellem. Jeff Schwartz and Andy Miller.

Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Jason Terry, Mirza Teletovic, Andray Blanche, Reggie Evans, Shaun Livingston, Tyshawn Taylor, Marquis Teague and Jason Collins

Wasserman Media Group teams are the Blazers, Thunder, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Spurs, TWolves, Nets, Clippers, Pelicans, and Pistons. Those 10 teams have roughly 75% of their clients.


Clearly, there are 4 main parties in signing any free agent: the player, the agent, Olshey and Paul Allen. So, the relationship between Olshey and agents can only go so far, but it's nice to know Olshey has a good relationship with several of the big agents.


The Blazers 2014-15 roster is fairly set, with 12 players with guaranteed contracts, a thirteenth in Will Barton is almost guaranteed(Blazers hold a 1yr/$915k option). A potential fourteenth is Mo Williams with his 1yr/$2.6M player option.

Presuming Mo Williams decides to opt out, and earn the money he deserves, the Blazers 2014-15 roster would look like (though I hope he opts in and stays):

PG: Lillard, McCollum
SG: Wes, Crabbe, Barton
SF: Batum, Wright, Claver
PF: Aldridge, TRob
C: Lopez, Freeland, Leonard

Depending on our free agent moves: Claver and Barton can be shifted to PF and SF, opening up another guard spot. Freeland can be shifted to the PF spot, opening up a center spot.

The Blazers have the mid-level exception(~4yr/$24M), the bi-annual exception, and of course veteran minimum deals to fill out the roster.

If Mo Williams opts in, then the only need is a big, and we use the mid-level exception to fill that need.

If Mo Williams opts out, then the Blazers still probably use the mid-level exception on another big, and either the bi-annual or vet min deal to grab another veteran point guard(perhaps even bringing Earl Watson in for another year to continue mentoring Lillard and McCollum). However, if Mo opts out, the Blazers have the option to use the mid-level on another guard, and then grab a bi-annual/vet min big man.


Something to look for is Wasserman Media Group free agents (of which Olshey has shown the proclivity to sign):

Kris Humphries
Spencer Hawes
DeShawn Stephenson
Jermaine O'Neal

There has been a trillion words about Spencer Hawes on this board, so I won't re-hash them here. However, the other 3 shouldn't leave our thoughts entirely. I don't think anyone here would be opposed to bringing in Jermaine as the bi-annual exception/vet min deal, thus allowing us to use our mid-level exception elsewhere.


Some other mid-level exception thoughts:

Thabo Sefolosha(unrestricted)

Matt Bonner(unrestricted)

Marcin Gortat(unrestricted) - almost guaranteed to earn more than mid-level money

Shane Battier(unrestricted)

Kyle Lowry(unrestricted) - almost guaranteed to earn more than mid-level money

Mario Chalmers(unrestricted)

Devin Harris(unrestricted)

Channing Frye(player option - 1yr/$6.8M)

Udonis Haslam(player option - 1yr/$4.6M)

Boris Diaw/Glen Davis/DeJuan Blair(all unrestricted)


I know I posted this roughly a thousand times this past off-season, but it bears repeating:

I still can't get over the off-season Olshey just produced.

He essentially traded:

JJ Hickson for Robin Lopez

Eric Maynor for Mo Williams

Luke Babbitt for Dorell Wright

Nolan Smith for CJ McCollum

Jared Jeffries for Thomas Robinson

Sasha Pavlovic/Elliot Williams for Allen Crabbe

Ronnie Price for Earl Watson

for 5 second rounders and ~$1M (plus the first rounder we used on CJ).

In Olshey we trust.


Oh, as if you needed another reason to love Neil Olshey:

"When I got hired in Portland, immediately I realized that Ben Falk was the smartest guy in the room, and it would probably be a good idea if I listened to him once in awhile."


Don't really have anyway to integrate this into the piece, but it discusses Vaccaro, the man who gave Olshey his big break and was a dominant persona in the basketball world for 30+ years, and you should read it:


Go Blazers!

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