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Siakam's agent Ramasar talks doing the job in age of coronavirus


One of the key requirements of being an NBA agent is spending plenty of in-person time with your clients. Of course, that’s an impossibility these days, with measures in place to try to stem the coronavirus pandemic. Self-quarantining and social distancing are the themes of the moment, so everyone needs to adapt, including in the sporting realm.

Los Angeles-based Todd Ramasar was just 24 when he became a certified NBA agent, representing future all-star Baron Davis, his former UCLA teammate. He’s worked for heavyweights such as Arn Tellem and Bill Duffy. Ramasar now runs Life Sports Media and Entertainment and represents a number of NBA players, including Toronto Raptors forward and scoring leader Pascal Siakam, who he co-reps with his  colleague Jaafar Choufani.

They helped get Siakam, one of the mysteries of the 2016 draft after going under the radar at New Mexico State, selected in the first round by Toronto.

Siakam has thrived since, becoming the NBA’s most improved player and a starting all-star this season.

Ramasar said he’s talking to Siakam and the rest of his clients more frequently in lieu of being able to visit.

“Because, I think more than anything, and this is not just for athletes,  you just talk about the effects on mental health. Kind of being in self-isolation,” Ramasar told Postmedia in a phone interview. “Even with family and loved ones, just having your normal routine taken away overnight, it takes its toll on anybody. So, for a lot of my guys, it’s just making sure they’re good,” he said.

Information is constantly arriving as we all go through his odd period and it’s no different for professional athletes. Ramasar says questions have been evolving as more is learned and as more time passes.

“The initial conversations were mainly business. Also their health and safety. But now that we’re a week into this, it’s more like, ‘Are you good. How can we be helpful?’” he said.

“A lot of them are staying (put), can’t go work out at their facilities. So trying to get workout equipment into their homes and talk to their teams. Just making sure that they’re not getting stir-crazy just sitting in their homes. Since there aren’t very many activities for them to do,” Ramasar said.

“There’s literally nothing. You can’t go to the movies, you can’t go shopping. You can’t go out to eat. Everything is from home base. And for these guys, where their internal clock has been on the road traveling (for 41 road outings or more) or going to a game or, you know, interacting with (team) staff and personnel. That camaraderie. And then, overnight, that’s taken away or that shifts. That’s tough,” Ramasar told Postmedia.

It’s also difficult because nobody knows what’s next, or how long it might take before training and games can resume.

“It’s tough to say, I mean I think it’s gonna be challenging the longer this plays out. Because it’s not a matter of logistics,” Ramasar said when asked to opine on when the league will be back. “I think for the NBA to return the season, say, in mid-June, it’s more of a matter that these guys are going to need at least a month to practice and find the rhythm and the chemistry again that they would have lost over that extended period of time. Because, what you don’t want to do is put these high-level athletes back on the floor without practice. To throw them out there in a high-level environment, which would be the playoffs (and potentially the end of the regular season), I think it’ll put them in harm’s way and increase the likelihood of serious injury. And that’s the challenge.”

Ramasar wanted to make it clear that there are many smart people working at the league and NBA Player’s Association level to figure out what’s best — “they are going through all that now, it’s just too early to tell, the information is fluid” — but he knows from experience what can happen if routines are altered too much.

“In 2011 (when the NBA played 66 games starting on Christmas following a lockout) you saw injuries after the lockout. One of them was Baron (Davis, his original client and friend). He had that catastrophic knee injury. Because there’s just an internal clock for guys in terms of their training and even in an off-season, guys know (how much rest they need and when they need to ramp things back up and to what degree),” he said.

“But to go, (playing in) October, November, December, January, February, part of March, six months hard and then overnight that’s taken away. And then 2.5 months, potentially goes by, and then to go into a playoff level atmosphere until the end of August, and then turn around and go back in the season in October … In some ways, that (could) be challenging.”

There are no easy decisions and we don’t yet know whether it will even be possible to play the rest of the season out. Hopefully the discussions around various scenarios will become less theoretical and more reality-based concepts before too long.

In the meantime, Ramasar and his ilk will do whatever they can to help their clients. From a safe distance.

DRAFT UNCERTAINTY

March Madness and the preceding tournaments were scrapped due to coronavirus-fighting measures and that’s going to make the NBA’s draft process a lot more complicated.

Scouts and executives losing a chance to see how players fare in high-pressure tournament games is only a very small part of the equation. Most of the viewing had already been done. These performances would have just been one more evaluation point to factor in.

It’s moreso when exactly is the draft going to happen? If the NBA season doesn’t resume, they could likely just do it in late-June as usual. But if it does, in May, June, or later, then what happens?

“You almost can’t figure out what’s going on with the draft because if teams aren’t working out or (allowed to use) facilities, how can draft prospects be, evaluated by NBA personnel,” asked agent Todd Ramasar in a phone interview with Postmedia.

“And then if you’re talking about reinstating the season in mid-June, how can you have a draft a week after and then have the regular season going and then the playoffs?

“The issue lies if you’re pushing back the draft later, you’re going to have some issues with guys testing the waters. And the college players, they’re on hiatus for so long.

“Or if you keep the draft where it’s at, how are NBA teams going to do trades, and otherwise evaluate talent. If the players that those draft prospects (are) potentially replacing are still playing?” Ramasar said.

Top prospects like Anthony Edwards, of Georgia, and Tre Jones, of Duke, have already declared for the draft. The NCAA has poured cold water on the idea of players getting extra eligibility (not that that matters much in this age of one-and-done standouts). Some underclassmen might return for another year if they don’t feel their stock is high enough. Others might declare if they think they’ve shown enough (or don’t want teams to see more).

Everything’s on the table at this point.

Ramsar, who represents Toronto’s Pascal Siakam, Washington Wizards starting centre Thomas Bryant and Golden State’s Kevon Looney, amongst others, said the uncertainty will have an impact on how all agents can do their jobs helping potential draftees this year.

“The challenge is going to be advising them after they are clients, because this is the least concern of the NBA leadership right now, in terms of the draft (overall),” he said. “Because they have to figure out what they’re doing with the season first.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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