Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Like DeJuan Blair ... So This Makes Me Nervous

The Post-Gazette reports that former Pitt basketball star DeJuan Blair has ditched his original lawyer-merchandiser and hired Happy Walters as his agent. This story, and the related context, generates several concerns:

First, that is a worrisome volume of strange activity for a young man (big man on the court, but a sophomore nonetheless) who has not yet been drafted.

Second, Blair appears to have refrained from seeking -- let alone heeding -- advice from his coaches, NBA insiders, or anyone else who has the appropriate experience and/or cares about him. Instead, he reportedly sized up his draft prospects by surfing the Internet and relied on a teammate for pointers on the agent market.

Third, and perhaps the most important, the "NBA agent Happy Walters" reported to have been engaged by Blair might be this Happy Walters

Cypress Hill and House Of Pain mamanger, Happy Walters was engaged in a shouting stand off with Suge Knight over politics on a soundtrack appearance. A few days after the altercation while withdrawing money from an ATM, Happy disappeared off the scene sending shock waves through the music industry as to his circumstances, however he reappeared several days later wandering the streets incoherent, shaved down, naked and covered in cigarette burns. When admitted to hospital he had amnesia and refused to comment on Suge Knight.

and/or this Happy Walters

IRON MAIDEN manager Rod Smallwood and SLAYER manager Rick Sales (both of whom work under the Sanctuary umbrella) were involved in a fistfight with record executive Happy Walters at the BMG Grammy party over the weekend. . . . Hits Daily Double apparently received an "open letter" from Smallwood addressing the incident. Said Smallwood: "I resent any implication that I am the type of person to get involved in 'brawls' at Grammy events or elsewhere, so let me make this clear. A group of us were chatting on the way out of the BMG party when Happy Walters stormed up and headbutted a Sanctuary Executive, Prem Akkaraju. Where I come from, headbutting is considered to be a vicious and cowardly act. I immediately stepped in to restrain Happy Walters from making further attacks on Prem Akkaraju. Happy Walters was shown out by security.

(I am still searching for the article reflecting Happy Walters' successful guidance of a non-prototype player through the draft and into a huge, first-round NBA contract. If anyone has it, please post it.)

Several doors have slammed behind DeJuan Blair recently (he jumped the gun unnecessarily on forfeiting eligibility), and he has made some dubious decisions (he is on his second set of professional advisors two weeks into a professional career that hasn't even started yet), but his future is still open and bright, with an unusually wide range of outcome. For that reason, I offer DeJuan Blair advice:

Go to people with Pitt connections -- you can't help them anymore, but they can help you -- who are familiar with the unforgiving world of professional basketball. Talk with Jamie Dixon, Tim Grgurich (upper right), Bob Hill, Billy Knight (left). Also, talk with Dave Wannestadt, Jimmie Johnson, Foge Fazio, Tony Dorsett, Jackie Sherrill (who helped the DeJuan Blair of the 1980s, Sam Clancy, another non-prototype NBA prospect, arrange the transition to successful professional football player). Perhaps most apt, check with Sam Clancy (lower right), who resembled you as a Pitt player from the City League, made a fine living in more than a decade of NFL football, and had a son chosen in the first round of the NBA draft recently. One of the best guys you will ever meet.

Also, find a top-flight lawyer. Not the kind of guy who has more "specialties" than can fit on a page. Not the kind of guy who signs contracts on the hoods of cars. A first-rate lawyer.

Ask these people for advice, and consider it carefully. If you play your cards right, you could emulate Charles Barkley or Antonio Gates or Wes Unseld or Sam Clancy. If you continue to play like the fish at a big-time poker game, however, you could wind up in Melvin Bennett's shoes. Mel Bennett, right, starred for Peabody in Pittsburgh's City League, then had a brief man-child stint with the Panthers -- so memorable he has a place on the Pitt Basketball All-Centennial Team despite having spent just his freshman season in Oakland. Bennett, relying on agents' bullshit, left Pitt early and squandered his chance at a solid NBA career (and payday). It is time to step away from that path, DeJuan.

No one can fault you much for a couple of missteps so far. You are a college sophomore without a background in legal and business matters; you don't know whom to trust; you are surrounded by jackals. But you need to find reliable advisors, and to start making appropriate decisions, without delay.

UPDATE: I do not intend to imply that Mel Bennett is living in a refrigerator box somewhere. Last I heard, he was coaching high school basketball. But he never reached his expected level of play or earnings in professional basketball, and I have always ascribed that to a bad decision to leave college after his freshman season.

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