Aaron Goodwin Plans Action Against Arn Tellem for Poaching Al Horford
But three months after agent Keith Glass won his courtroom bout with agent Andy Miller in a landmark decision, the case is serving as a segue into a contentious faceoff between two industry heavyweights and might spark change at the institutional level as well.
Agent Aaron Goodwin told FanHouse that he plans to file a formal complaint against top agent Arn Tellem with the NBA Players Association in the coming weeks because of how his colleague came to represent Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford. Horford was represented by Goodwin from the time he was picked third overall out of Florida in 2007 until late June, when he changed agents days before he was eligible to begin discussing a possible extension. The union will rule on whether the case goes to arbitration.
Adding to the mix that Goodwin finds mysterious, the agent who is listed as Horford's representative by the union is B.J. Armstrong, the former player who works for Tellem and has decidedly less experience than Goodwin in dealing with such negotiations. Tellem, however, is nothing short of a top dog in their dog-eat-dog world -- listed by Hoopshype.com as the top grossing agent in the game with 38 players in all (nine All-Stars) and a combined salary total of $181,526,949 among his players.
"There have been a number of complaints to the Players Association before this, and I think that the (Glass-Miller) ruling will open up an opportunity for people in the business who feel there have been some improprieties done to address it," said Goodwin, the former agent of LeBron James and Dwight Howard whose current marquee client is Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. "I've been dealing with the Players Association on the issue, and will continue to move forward on (the Tellem situation). I feel that there are some improprieties with the way that it was handled.
"I'm not going to publicly discuss that, but I am going to pursue that vigorously because I'm not going to allow anyone to roll me and feel like they can just get away with it."
When the Glass-Miller ruling was first revealed by The New York Times on September 17, the agent-on-agent crime report hardly sparked a furor among NBA fans or even the media.
Even in this modern world of unprecedented sports coverage and scrutiny, agents remain a largely anonymous lot to the masses, stealing the mainstream spotlight only when the time comes for their player to negotiate a new contract or demand a trade. But when Glass was able to prove that Miller illicitly stole his client, Quincy Douby, back in April of 2007, it didn't go unnoticed in the Wild West world in which these men work.
In fact, it caused quite a stir.
The NBA Players Association has a catch-all code of ethics in place and frowns upon such methods, but regulation has never been realistic because of the immense detective work that's almost always necessary to come to an accurate ruling. Yet in the wake of the July 24 decision in which an arbitrator found Miller guilty of tortious interference and ordered him and Douby's high school coach, Jack Ringel, to pay Glass $40,000 in damages, it appears the case might indeed forge significant change.
According to NBA Players Association spokesman Dan Wasserman, the union is considering making major changes to the current policies that have been in place since 1991.
"There is a review and analysis of the regulations in total taking place which may result in changes to the rules," Wasserman told FanHouse.
The NBAPA appears to have a preferred reference point in Major League Baseball, which completed an overhaul of its agent-player system on Oct. 1. The new rulebook on player-agent policies includes changes ranging from what it takes to become a baseball agent to how said agents recruit players to how the insidious industry is policed.
Goodwin was hardly surprised by the Glass-Miller ruling, saying he has "had issues with (Miller) in the past." As for Tellem, who did not return numerous calls for comment despite being informed of the accusation, Goodwin's disapproval runs deep because of a subplot from their past. While Goodwin wouldn't provide specific details, he said he showed Tellem professional courtesy in a similar situation years ago that wasn't returned when it came to Horford.
"I had heard this same gentleman (Tellem) was about to be fired by a player years before, and when the player contacted me (to discuss possible representation), I told the player that I didn't talk to players who were under contract with other agents," Goodwin said. "And I turned around and I called the gentleman to tell him to reach out to his player and see what he could do to rectify that situation.
"(Tellem's) response was that he appreciated it, and that most agents wouldn't do something like that, and he respected the fact that I would. In return, he turns around and doesn't give me the same respect and dignity to call me (regarding Horford)."
The player-agent dynamic surrounding the situation is complex, to say the least. Goodwin also represents a Horford teammate in Jamal Crawford who, as FanHouse reported in late August, will request a trade if he isn't given an extension. Those negotiations are certainly affected by the outcome of ongoing extension discussions between Horford's new camp and the Hawks, this after Tellem's other Hawks client, guard Joe Johnson, was given a five-year, $119 million deal just days after Horford switched representatives.
"Where other people may close their eyes to it, I try to address it," Goodwin said. Like Glass, Goodwin has had run-ins with Miller. "I've literally called (Miller) several times to reiterate not to speak to my clients. I think if agents would confront other agents, it wouldn't be as big of a deal. There are some who feel they're untouchable, and have the wherewithal to do whatever they want to do, especially when it comes to improprieties.
"The crazy thing is that it's ran almost like a street business. And at the end of the day, if someone would do this to you and it wasn't regulated by government, you'd go down and you'd inflict some harm on them so that they wouldn't do it again. But you can't do that. And they understand that there's not much you can do, so they run rampant. And when you confront them, if they're man enough to take the phone call, they deny it."
But change, Goodwin and plenty of others hope, may be on the way.
"I've had conversations with the Players Association over the last couple of years when these types of situations have come up, and they're addressing it," he said. "It's something that was brought to the forefront even before the (Glass-Miller) ruling, and that they had been working toward coming up with ways to deal with."
E-mail Sam at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @samickAOL.