I guess there's room for a microscopic disclaimer as it pertains to the forthcoming hiring of Jason Levien as Kings assistant GM. Months - if not longer - of talks and planning about his addition to the front office could lead to his non-hiring. Common sense (not to mention mountains of reliable information on my end) however, leads to another conclusion.
It sounds as if the timeline on this thing may be sooner than expected. Don't be surprised if it's official by next week, at which time the powers-that-be in the organization can answer all your questions about what it means. For now, you'll have to settle for me. Thus, a Q&A from what I've seen as the most frequent questions being asked by folks in light of the new arrival.
(For those who want to ask and answer their own questions in our Forums section, go to the post - "What do you make of the Kings' front-office addition?"
Q: Is this Geoff Petrie's successor?
A: Only time will tell, but anyone who finds a way into any NBA front office has a shot at the job by default. As for the Wayne Cooper factor (he has been Petrie's right-hand man for 15 years, 12 as VP of basketball ops), I've never had anyone tell me that Coop was biding his time to take the reins from Petrie even before Levien's name was brought up. Admittedly, my take there is that only Cooper knows his thoughts on this matter. And this changes nothing of the fact that he is a well-respected executive in the league whose job title wasn't changed in the slightest.
As for Levien himself, he has a lot to learn about this side of the equation and will have to go to work proving he belongs and gaining the confidence of those around him like he did with Petrie (more on that below). Until this situation unfolds in the coming months, it won't be entirely clear how wide the range of his job duties will be. And while Petrie's contract expires after next season, his future in Sacramento could certainly extend beyond that point. How the next two seasons go will have much to do with how he sees his career. Note to conspiracy theorists: No one is nudging him out the door.
His last public comment on his future came by way of Ailene Voisin in this column when she reported that he had actually nudged the Maloofs to leave his own contract talks for another day.
According to sources within the organization, Petrie, whose option for 2009-10 was picked up last summer, tabled the Maloofs' offer for a multiyear contract extension.
"Honestly, I'm concerned about my job today, tomorrow and the next day," Petrie said recently when asked about his job status. "At some point in the future, we can sit down and talk about it. But I believe that will sort itself out. In the big picture, I want what's best for the franchise."
Levien is aided enormously, though, because of who made the push to bring him in. Which leads us to...
Q: Is this a Petrie hire or a Maloof hire?
A: The short answer: yes. Both sides are on board, but it is Petrie driven from start to finish. Going back to their journey to Istanbul, they became closer through the years. And one thing I didn't 'mention in the story is that Levien was a Harvard Law fellow, meaning he can do the Ivy League fist pound with his new boss.
Q: Why would a successful agent leave a lucrative career behind to do this?
A: According to Hoopshype.com, he ranks 23rd in the league among agents in the NBA in terms of clients' salaries. He was far from an uber-agent, as I once described agent Aaron Goodwin, but more than successful enough to think twice and maybe even 10 times before making this move (and for the record, my line in today's story about how he negotiated "hundreds of millions of dollars in NBA contracts" was a bit steep, as his tally appears to be more in the neighborhood of $150 million). I also don't know what he'll earn, but rest assured - considering his title, inexperience and the current status of the Maloofs' bottom line - it's a pay cut.
The obvious reason for change is the appeal of switching sides, becoming a more permanent part of the NBA system as opposed to a cog in it. He played basketball in college and was quoted in stories dating back years saying he gave serious thought to coaching before taking the route he took. Again, until Levien himself speaks, I'd be sharing guesswork here.
Q: Will he still be paid in full on the contracts he brokered?
A: Yes, but he must lose his status as an agent.
Q: What was the reaction in the agent world?
A: Well, considering I received more than a few phone calls this morning that began with, "Really?!" I'd say his former colleagues were shocked and the overall reaction was negative. Per human nature, though, it's not typically the ones who are positive on any topic that take the time to chime in.
The move is outside the box in every way, and Levien's focus should be on not becoming the next Pete D'Alesandro.
The former agent and former Golden State Warriors assistant GM was fired in early November (www.ibabuzz.com/warriors/2008/11/06/mullins-right-hand-man-fired). He's the only example I've heard of a guy who took the agent's path to become NBA brass, but I may be missing some other examples there (feel free to add to the list as I haven't had time to do that homework).
Just my own musings here, but I find it funny how the Kings and Rockets - whose paths have now crossed in so many different ways - continue to have similarities that may be total coincidence and may not be. Houston stepped outside the proverbial box by putting money man and "Moneyball"-type stat head Daryl Morey up high as a GM. Levien is known to sway toward the newer wave of statistical analysis as well.
Q: Does this mean that if Kevin Martin hadn't already stopped worrying about getting enough shots (which he had) or wondered if had enough support on high (which he did), he can now?
A: Easiest question yet. Safe to say, yes. - Sam Amick