As news broke that the Los Angeles Lakers had not only fired longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak, but also lured power agent Rob Pelinka as his replacement, the ears of player representatives across the country perked up. Pelinka boasts an impressive list of clients—ranging from James Harden to Buddy Hield—and will have to divest his ownership stake in his agency, Landmark Sports, which has sparked a vast number of phone calls from rival agents.
“It will be like the wild, wild west,” one rival agent told The Crossover. “It’s like a real life Jerry Maguire,” said another.
Unlike the classic '90s movie, Pelinka’s team at Landmark doesn’t roster a Bob Sugar waiting in the wings, ready to take his shot. It’s been reported the agency’s current staff of Brandon Rosenthal, Diana Day and Erika Williams will lead Landmark’s new era. They all appear to be well-respected in the industry, but Rosenthal previously served as Pelinka’s salary cap guru while Day and Williams spearheaded the agency’s marketing and public relations arm.
Several Pelinka clients will re-enter free agency this summer. Andre Iguodala will undoubtedly search for one last big payday. Dion Waiters will assuredly waive his player option and demand a handsome raise after thriving in Miami for the paltry mid-level exception. Derrick Williams may parlay a postseason run with Cleveland into a longterm deal. And should Chris Bosh regain a clean bill of health and cut ties with the Miami Heat, there will be a long line of teams interested on July 1. An agency with a sturdier leadership structure may be more attractive to those players, and other Pelinka clients.
“You have to work your mutual connections to get ahold of them,” one agent said. The common path is contacting players’ college and AAU coaches as well as former and current teammates agencies already represent.
The player representatives The Crossover contacted explained that pressuring players into an agreement is not the strategy, offering to present an alternative option instead. “If you’d like to explore another avenue, we’d love to bring you on board,” one agent said. And then the hope is current clients and mutual contacts will fill the player’s ear. Players have left Pelinka before. Kevin Durant fired the power agent in 2013 to sign with Roc Nation and Andre Drummond departed for Excel’s Jeff Schwartz in 2014.
Buddy Hield is certainly a client that could be on the move. At the tender age of 23, the sharpshooter has been traded to a dysfunctional organization and lost his agent in the span of 48 hours. Rival agents will also target youngsters Dante Exum, Marquese Chriss and Tyus Jones.
The NBPA overseas 20–30 agent terminations annually. Should a Pelinka client ultimately decide to part ways with Landmark, the player would have to email a termination letter to the agency, with the NBPA cc’ed. And, as detailed in the Standard Player Agent Contract, players have to wait 15 days after administering the termination letter before officially signing with new representation.
A league source also said Pelinka may still collect his allotted fees for the remainder of each player contract he has negotiated. For all player contracts above the minimum salary, agents who negotiate deals are due 4% of the player’s annual compensation. For example, through James Harden’s $118 million extension with the Houston Rockets alone, Pelinka will earn $4.72 million through 2020, while also commanding an assured multi-million dollar annual salary from Los Angeles. DraftExpress lists the current and future known guaranteed salary for Pelinka's primary clients at a staggering $363,740,424, equating to over $14.5 million for his services.
Kobe Bryant does still loom large. Several industry sources said Bryant has long been rumored to hold ownership stake in Landmark, and as the five-time champion fully shifts into his post-playing-career business ventures, the sense is Bryant won’t let Landmark fizzle away. He played a major role in recruiting Buddy Hield, according to league sources, and seemingly planned for an encore this spring.
The Lakers can’t officially hire or announce Pelinka as GM until he divests from Landmark. And as previously mentioned, players have to outlast a two-week interim period between terminating an agreement with an agent and joining forces with a new representative. On the surface, it will take time, the movement gliding along in view while fervently peddling behind the shadows.