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Sunday Basketball notes

Rookies’ agents work on summer vocations

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / August 21, 2011

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Perhaps the biggest victims of this NBA lockout have yet to play in a professional game, sign a contract, or even have an extensive conversation with their coach.

Once it was clear that a lockout was approaching, agents for draft picks prepared for the possibility that their first-year clients would have no affiliation with the teams that drafted them. Except for the week of the draft, when the players were introduced to their new cities, the rookies have been on their own, looking to their agents for help.

Agents have searched not only for overseas contracts - as Mark Bartelstein did for Celtics second-round pick E’Twaun Moore - but they also have sought marketing options for their clients. Some rookies are living off payments from trading card companies as well as advances from their agents, which is normal during the summer before they begin earning NBA income.

But with no contract negotiations on the horizon with NBA owners, rookies may face financial hardships if the season does not begin on time. Agents have attempted to help rookies understand the particulars of the labor situation and why the sides are so far apart even after one of the league’s most successful seasons of the post-Jordan era.

“It’s part of this whole process,’’ said Bartelstein, who represents seven rookies, including former Boston College guard Reggie Jackson. “This [labor] deal is very important to them because it’s going to shape what they’re allowed to do with the contract negotiations in the future.

“So they have a lot at stake. Their futures are at stake here, and it’s something we’re working really hard at to make sure guys are really informed on what’s going on.’’

FIBA, the federation that regulates international basketball, announced last month that it would allow NBA players to sign overseas if they return once the NBA season begins. Moore’s deal has an NBA out, and he is expected to report to training camp later this month. But as a second-round pick, Moore’s chances of making the Celtics roster and earning more than he would with his current contract with Benetton Treviso are slim.

First-rounders will get guaranteed contracts once the lockout is over, so playing overseas may be more risky for them, because teams can void contracts if players return with a debilitating injury. So the representatives for Boston first-round pick JaJuan Johnson are not as eager to seek an overseas contract. According to Johnson’s agent, Kevin Bradbury, Johnson will remain in the States working out with former Michael Jordan workout guru Tim Grover in Chicago.

“I don’t think it’s time for that yet, especially for a kid like JaJuan,’’ Bradbury said. “He’s got things he can improve before the season starts and he wants to be a Boston Celtic and so he’s going to do everything he can to focus on that.’’

But the lockout summer is a challenge, especially for rookies.

“They are very much engaged, but they wish they could be more engaged day to day,’’ Bradbury said. “But they also understand they are young and don’t have enough experience yet in those areas to have a real big voice. But they are also counting on the veterans and the negotiating committee to look out for them.’’

Many agents are convinced owners want to break the union and have little intention of negotiating.

“We knew this lockout was coming, so if your agent was smart, you had a plan for this already,’’ Bradbury said. “There is not that sense of ‘Oh my God, the lockout is here.’

“We knew these guys weren’t going to be able to make money for a certain amount of time and we’re not sure how long that’s going to be. We’ll have to have a plan in place for a few months or for the whole season or whatever happens. We have a plan for each of those things, so they are not struggling.’’

It’s not as if the Celtics have no input with their rookies. Anticipating a lockout, team president Danny Ainge met with Bradbury the week of the draft and offered guidelines on what the club wanted from Johnson’s offseason regimen. They wanted Johnson to add bulk and strength to his 225-pound frame, and Grover is among the more renowned trainers with professional athletes.

“We have him in the right place as far as his work with Tim Grover,’’ Bradbury said of Johnson, who is expected to play power forward behind Kevin Garnett. “His individual work that he’s doing, that’s going to help carry him through the season.

“We are of the mind-set that we’re going to play ball soon, and when we do that, JaJuan will be part of the rotation. We are not going to jeopardize what we might accomplish in his rookie year [with an overseas contract].’’

Bartelstein, who has already brokered overseas deals for a number of rookies, said this summer has been unique but not unexpected.

“I think we’re trying to take a negative and turn it into a positive,’’ he said. “For a lot of our rookies, they are headed overseas for great opportunities and great situations they are excited about.

“If the NBA is not going to let you play, then you have to look somewhere else and make the best of a tough situation, and that’s what we’re trying to do.’’

RONDO’S TRAVAILS
Was Obama’s dig a factor? It was an interesting week for Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who attended what was supposed to be former teammate Kendrick Perkins’s all-star game in Beaumont, Texas.

Perkins was arrested by Beaumont police early in the morning Aug. 13 on a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication. Rondo was not involved in the incident, according to his representatives.

Then there was an excerpt from Shaquille O’Neal’s latest book, written with former Globe reporter Jackie MacMullan, regarding a fund-raiser attended by Celtics players in March at the Museum of Fine Arts with President Obama. According to the book, the president asked Ray Allen, in front of a group of people, when he was going to teach Rondo how to shoot.

Shaq said Kevin Garnett told him Rondo was bothered by the comments, embarrassed that the Commander-in-Chief publicly called him out about his shooting struggles.

In the six games after the event with Obama, Rondo went 16 of 56 from the field (28 percent). In a four-game stretch, he scored only 8 points, including a scoreless outing in which he attempted just two shots in a 92-80 victory over Indiana.

Rondo shot 47.5 percent from the field for the season, most of his baskets coming on layups and runners. But he shot just 40.8 percent during the final two months, seemingly losing his confidence.

Rondo wouldn’t acknowledge that anything was bothering him, and some blamed the Perkins trade for his performance.

When the postseason arrived, Rondo suddenly turned into the offensive aggressor against the Knicks, shooting 50 percent in the series, including a 30-point effort in Game 2.

Rondo was unable to flourish in the loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals after he suffered a dislocated left elbow in Game 3.

Rondo said two weeks ago that he has not been cleared for full contact but expected to be ready for training camp. The injury may have denied Rondo the opportunity to spend the summer working on his shot.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers encourages Rondo to continue shooting, claiming he has a natural stroke, but it’s obvious that Rondo was reluctant to shoot on occasion last season. Obama’s comments may have added to his insecurity.

As for Perkins, he insisted through his representatives that he was not intoxicated during the incident at the bar, and he is scheduled for a Sept. 30 court date. Perkins had scheduled a celebrity game in his hometown the night of the incident but it was canceled because Perkins had fallen ill the night before.

ETC.
Stern a big Rodman fan Dennis Rodman gave one of the more emotional and revealing Hall of Fame acceptance speeches at his recent induction. Rodman’s antics were groundbreaking in the 1990s. Many current players are littered with tattoos and sport unusual hairstyles, but Rodman set trends not only for fashion but for how commissioner David Stern dealt with the changing NBA personality. “Actually I hope people use this occasion to reflect on what a great player he was,’’ Stern said, “and how he did so many things on the court and how his winning percentage is up there with the greats. [Rodman’s behavior] seems to be part of a continuum. Maybe he was involved in more unusual ways, but he was part of a great era.’’

Second-chance points After shutting it down for one year, the Lakers have resurrected their D-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, and hired former Sacramento coach Eric Musselman as coach. Musselman, 46, appeared to be on his way to becoming one of the NBA’s promising coaches but was fired by Sacramento after a 33-49 season in 2007 that was marred by a DUI arrest. Musselman could use the D-League opportunity as a chance to catapult himself back to the NBA. He deserves another opportunity.

Layups Kevin Garnett has a deal with a Chinese shoe company and has deep ties in the country, but the Chinese Basketball Association announced that it will not allow NBA players under contract to sign with Chinese teams during the lockout. Garnett has one year left on his Celtics contract and hasn’t indicated whether he intends to continue playing in the NBA beyond next season. He signed with the ANTA shoe company in May 2010 and blogs to his fan base in China . . . Players are passing their time during the lockout in interesting ways. Chase Budinger of the Rockets and the Timberwolves’ Kevin Love decided to pursue their dream of playing beach volleyball. Budinger played in the Corona Light Wide Open tournament in Hermosa Beach, Calif., this past week, and Love will play in the Jose Cuervo series next weekend in Manhattan Beach, Calif. . . . Larry Bird has made it clear that his days as Pacers president are numbered, and there have been reports that ownership is seeking another figure with major Indiana ties to replace the Celtics great. Indiana has a load of salary cap space but management’s hands are tied until the lockout is over. Reggie Miller is the top NBA analyst at TNT but may be intrigued by the opportunity to rebuild the franchise he helped take to an NBA Finals.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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