SBJ/April 29 - May 5, 2002/Labor Agents

Indy Duffy may have 2nd top NBA draft pick

Jason Williams picked Bill Duffy.

Independent agent Bill Duffy scored a coup last week when he signed projected top NBA draft pick Jason Williams, beating out heavyweight agents David Falk and Michael Ovitz.

Williams, a former Duke guard who is projected to be the No. 2 pick in the June draft, and his family interviewed Duffy, Ovitz, Falk and prominent basketball agent Lon Babby before making their decision.

All of the agents provided extensive presentations on how they planned to represent Williams, both in contract negotiations and in marketing, said Paul Haagen, a professor at the Duke University School of Law who acts for the university as an adviser during the agent selection process.

The four agents said they viewed Williams as one of the most marketable players to enter the NBA draft in the last several years, Haagen said.

"The notion of branding is something that is very much part of these discussions now," Haagen said. "I think the notion is [Williams] combines the sense of responsibility — he has a degree and comes from an intact family — and he has a tough, aggressive, explosive, exciting game."

The Williamses chose Duffy even though he is considered the front-runner to represent Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 Chinese center who is expected to be the No. 1 pick, Haagen said. Some athletes historically have preferred not to be represented by an agent who may work for another player competing for a top slot in the draft.

Yao is expected to pick an agent in June. Duffy has developed a relationship with the player over the last few years.

"We discussed Yao Ming," Haagen said. "It certainly came up as an issue."

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