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Zion Williamson’s lawyers doubt marketing firm’s contract

Steve Murphy

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Zion Williamson's lawyers doubt marketing firm's contract

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Lawyers for New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson want a federal judge in North Carolina to rule that a marketing firm suing Williamson for $100 million never had a valid contract with the former Duke star.

Prime Sports Marketing and its president, Gina Ford, sought breach-of-contract damages from Williamson and his current representatives at Creative Artists Agency after the player pulled out of an agreement with Prime Sports before he became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

The motion filed by Williamson attorney John Wester in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem this week centers on North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act. The law is meant to shield amateur athletes from agents trying to take advantage of their lack of experience with acquiring professional representation.

It requires agents to be registered in the state. It also requires contracts to contain a warning that athletes are forfeiting amateur eligibility, as well as language stipulating that athletes have 14 days to cancel the agreement.

Wester argued in a memorandum in support of his motion that Prime Sports’ contract with Williamson contained none of that required language, which is supposed to be “prominent, all-caps, and bold.”

Wester also asserts that Ford, who was Prime Sports’ primary contact with Williams and his family, was not registered in North Carolina.

“These statutes recognize the vulnerability of young student-athletes and attempt to aid their transition to professional sports by preventing manipulative, underhanded behavior from athlete agents who prey on student-athletes’ youth, and the athletes’ and their families’ inexperience in the industry,” Wester wrote.

Ford’s attorneys this month filed documents alleging Williamson “engaged in conduct that rendered … him ineligible to be or remain a student-athlete” before Williamson had met Ford to discuss endorsement deals. In theory, the claim would render arguments about the Uniform Athlete Agent Act moot, although no evidence has been offered yet to back it up.

Wester counters that the fact Williamson was deemed eligible to play for Duke and was “one of the most prominent student-athletes in the country in recent years,” means Williamson met the description of an amateur athlete when he was negotiating with Ford.

“It is undisputed that Mr. Williamson played basketball for Duke during the entire 2018-2019 basketball season,” Wester asserted.

Zion Williamson
Zion WilliamsonAP

The legal maneuvering between Williamson and Ford has been taking place in two federal jurisdictions.

Williamson sued in North Carolina last June to void the contract. Ford and Prime Sports responded by suing in federal court in Florida for damages related to breach of contract by Williamson and tampering by his CAA agents.

In Florida this month, Ford’s lawyer submitted a list of questions that include asking whether Williamson or anyone on his behalf had sought or accepted “money, benefits, favors or other things of value” to sign with Duke.

The filings — which offer no evidence of wrongdoing by Williamson or his family — sought answers within 30 days to establish facts under oath in the pretrial discovery process.

The questions reference Williamson’s mother and step-father as well as apparel companies Nike — which outfits the Blue Devils team — and Adidas. The questions include whether he received any improper benefits from an agent between January 2014 and his April 2019 announcement that he would go pro.

Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld has declined to comment on the filings since the school is not a party to either lawsuit. Schoenfeld also referred to a previous statement that the school has reviewed Williamson’s eligibility and found no concerns.

Steve Murphy has handled various businesses throughout his career and has a deep domain knowledge. He founded Report Door in an attempt to bring the latest news to its readers. He is glued to the stock market most of the times and just loves being in touch with the developments in the business world.

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MLB’s divide-and-conquer pitch to union a non-starter

Steve Murphy

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MLB's divide-and-conquer pitch to union a non-starter

If this was the best that Major League Baseball could do to kick off Hell Week, then let’s just defer the players’ prorated payments and live to fight another day.

There will be more fights, naturally. There might not be much living for baseball, though, if the players and owners can’t find sufficient common ground in the next week or so to restart this pandemic-delayed campaign. And this sliding-scale concept, proposed by MLB to the players association on Tuesday, generated about as much excitement on the players’ side as did the “No postgame showers” suggestion.

As veteran pitcher Brett Anderson of the Brewers tweeted, “Interesting strategy of making the best most marketable players potentially look like the bad guys.”

Of course the players view this as a divisive tactic. How couldn’t they? Suddenly Gerrit Cole and his fellow baseball one-percenters find themselves with the dilemma of being either magnanimous or selfish? Yuck.

Don’t bother summoning setups that might seem comparable on the surface. The collectively bargained revenue-sharing rules, by which the big-market entity Yankees must write a check to the small-market Rays and so on, are founded on the principle of competitive balance. This idea emanates from the principal that the clubs want to save. When teams deploy sliding scales on their own employees, as the Mets recently did to control costs during the shutdown, they can do so unchecked. Whereas for teams to proffer that to a union, to instruct it how to divvy up its share of the kitty, feels patronizing.

MLB's latest proposal to the player should be a non-starter, The Post's Ken Davidoff writes.
MLB’s latest proposal to the player should be a non-starter, The Post’s Ken Davidoff writes.Getty Images

Therefore: deferments, as The Post’s Joel Sherman first proposed earlier this month. Give the players their prorated salaries, just over a longer period of time. The players will be amenable to humane timelines I’m guessing. Shoot, players association official Bobby Bonilla has a holiday named after him for the $1.19 million he receives from the Mets every July 1 through 2035 thanks to the deferments he agreed to receive way back in 1999. You don’t think a 55-year-old Cole wouldn’t be delighted to receive a $500,000 check from the Yankees?

The owners did very well in the last round of negotiating two months ago when they signed off on a very reasonable lump-sum payment of $170 million to the players — that wound up being about $300,000 for each veteran player — as well as protection against future litigation, a shortsighted decimation of the amateur draft and language that empowered them to reopen talks in the event that paying fans couldn’t attend the games. That last part brought the parties to Tuesday’s dialogue, and a deferment would indeed provide the owners with some breathing room that acknowledges the intake lost by no fans at the ballpark — while at the same time acknowledging the concessions made by the players so recently.

It’s time to cut a deal. The two sides have about a week to virtually shake hands in agreement if they want to begin the season in early July. That should be enough time for two antsy parties to realize how badly they need each other for self-preservation. For the owners, in particular, to look at themselves in their antique mirrors and wonder whether it really would be worth it to not play games at all rather than play them while losing more money than they want.

James Ingram once sang, “I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough.” If the sliding scale served as MLB’s best, it most certainly wasn’t good enough. It’s time to take the path of almost-least resistance and maximum satisfaction. Deferrals shouldn’t be deferred any longer, and as the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association take steady paths toward restarts, neither should baseball’s revival.

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NHL Draft Lottery 2020: Date, phases, best odds to win No. 1 pick and Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes

Steve Murphy

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NHL Draft Lottery 2020: Date, phases, best odds to win No. 1 pick and Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes

The 2019-20 NHL season going on pause back on March 12 came the uncertainty of what it would mean for the 2020 NHL Draft and Draft Lottery. 

While the timing for the NHL Draft is still technically to be determined — as it’ll be after the Stanley Cup playoffs and when those happen is unknown — the date and format for the lottery were announced by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman — and hold on, the format … it’s a doozy.

With unprecedented times comes an unprecedented draft lottery regarding the order of selection of the next generation of NHL talent. 

“One of the things that went into the decision to create a new lottery system was for the advantage of the seven clubs who aren’t resuming play…that they have the ability to engage with their fan base on something during that long pause between games,” said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on a call with reporters Tuesday. “We thought the draft lottery was a way to create excitement, create a way for those teams to engage with their fan base, get some certainty early on and not going into kind of a long slumber of creating waves and buzz over the summertime.”

What we do know is that the only officially postseason-eliminated team, the Detroit Red Wings still have the best chance of winning the top pick and that time pick is expected to be Alexis Lafreniere.

NHL DRAFT 2020:  SN’s latest mock | Central Scouting’s final rankings

The Rimouski Oceanic and Hockey Canada star has been the consensus No. 1 pick for months, if not years, and should be suiting up in 2020-21. The only question is for whom.

There’s a lot to unpack for the lottery but Sporting News has all of the info to get you primed and ready for where your team could be drafting come the fall.

What are the phases for the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery?

The NHL announced on Tuesday that the lottery could happen in two phases, depending on how Phase 1 goes.

In the first phase, there will be three draws involving 15 teams — technically. The seven teams that do not make the Round Robin or Qualifying Round will automatically be entered into the lottery. To fill out the remaining eight teams, because it’ll be done before games are played, they’ll be listed Teams A-H.

There will then be three draws, in order, for the first-overall pick, second-overall pick and third-overall pick.

So, here’s when it gets a little tricky.

If those three picks include any of the Teams A-H, there will be a Phase 2. If none of the top three picks are Teams A-H, there will not be a Phase 2. 

What happens when all three picks are won by Teams 1-7?

So, if things play out properly where three of the seven worst teams garner the top three picks, the remaining four teams in the seven-team group will be slotted 4-7 based on points percentage at the time of the regular-season pause.

Then, positions 8-15 will be assigned to the eight teams that do not advance from the Qualifying Round, in inverse order of their points percentage at the time of the regular-season pause.

Stanley Cup playoffs: Everything we know about the NHL’s potential resumption

When is the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery’s Phase 1?

Bettman announced that the Phase 1 NHL Draft Lottery drawing will take place on June 26. 

Odds to win the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery’s Phase 1

TEAM PTS. PCT. ODDS
1. Detroit Red Wings .275 18.5%
2. Ottawa Senators .437 13.5
3. Ottawa Senators (via SJS) .437 11.5
4. Los Angeles Kings .457 9.5
5. Anaheim Ducks .472 8.5 
6. New Jersey Devils .493* 7.5
7. Buffalo Sabres .493* 6.5
8. Team A n/a 6.0
9. Team B n/a 5.0
10. Team C n/a 3.5
11. Team D n/a 3.0
12. Team E n/a 2.5
13. Team F n/a 2.0
14. Team G n/a 1.5
15. Team H n/a 1.0

*Buffalo Sabres ranked higher than New Jersey Devils on the basis of higher regulation/OT win percentage (Buffalo, .406 ROW%; New Jersey, .348 ROW%)

NHL 2019-20 regular season: Bruins, Pastrnak, Ovechkin, Draisaitl and more

What is Phase 2?

If Phase 2 is necessary, it will occur between after the eight teams are eliminated and before the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and will only include the eight teams eliminated to determine whichever top-3 seeds needed to be selected.

Once the top-3 seeds are established, the remaining slots will be assigned to the 12 teams that did not win a draw in inverse order of their points percentages at the time of the season’s pause.

In this phase, all eight teams will have the same 12.5 percent odds.

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Giants need another Pro Bowl season from Aldrick Rosas

Steve Murphy

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Giants need another Pro Bowl season from Aldrick Rosas

Part 11 in a series analyzing the New York Giants.

The one thing you notice about the kicking specialists the Giants employ is they look, well, like football players. Aldrick Rosas is a strongly built 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, and Riley Dixon is the same weight and taller, at 6-4.

Dixon is coming off an excellent year as the Giants’ punter and was rewarded with a three-year contract worth $8.7 million. Rosas, after a sensational 2018 season as the place-kicker, was not as effective in 2019 and was brought back on the one-year restricted free agent tender of $3.2 million.

For the first time since 2007, the special teams will not be anchored by Zak DeOssie, who set a standard of consistency that every long snapper dreams about. The less heard and said about the long snapper, the better, and DeOssie, for 13 years, navigated through coaching changes and players exiting and entering the locker room.

The replacement is Casey Kreiter, a veteran of four seasons with the Broncos, and the transition should be smooth. Kreiter was the long snapper at Iowa for 40 games and for 58 games with the Broncos. In 2018, he snapped the ball back 146 times without incident and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

What the Giants need to find is their leader on special teams, as DeOssie served as a team captain every year since 2011.

Aldrick RosasBill Kostroun/New York Post

Given his background coaching in college and for eight years with the Patriots, new head coach Joe Judge will be extra-demanding when it comes to the special teams operation. He retained Thomas McGaughey, who has a long NFL history on special teams — with the Giants for Tom Coughlin and as the coordinator for the Jets, 49ers and Panthers before returning to the Giants in 2018 as part of Pat Shurmur’s staff.

“I will be involved with all three sides of the ball,’’ Judge said, “but T-Mac is the special teams coordinator here.’’

With a new head coach to impress, this likely is a season of decision for Rosas. He looked like the next big thing at kicker when he made 32 of his 33 field-goal attempts in 2018. He looked like just another kicker in 2019, going 12-for-17 on field goals and missing four extra points. Leg strength is not the problem with Rosas. Far from it. Judge was accustomed to superior kicking during his time with the Patriots, upping the ante even more for Rosas.

There should not be much of an argument if Dixon was named as the Giants player having the best season in 2019. He averaged 46.1 yards on his 69 punts, put 29 punts down inside the 20-yard line and, remarkably, just two of his punts went for touchbacks.

The return game was not bad last season. Corey Ballentine as a rookie averaged 25.6 yards on 10 kickoff returns, and Golden Tate averaged 9.7 yards on 10 punt returns.

It will be interesting to see if Judge and McCaughey turn Jabrill Peppers loose. He was a dynamo with the ball in his hands in college at Michigan and handled those duties his first two years in the NFL with the Browns. As a full-time strong safety, the Giants might want to mitigate the risk factor with Peppers, who is coming off a fracture in his back suffered late last season.

Darius Slayton did not do much (21-yard average) on his nine kickoff returns as a rookie. He figures to be more involved on offense in year No. 2. Corey Coleman was re-signed, and his most direct pathway to the roster is staying healthy (that has been a problem) and proving he can be a difference-maker in the return game. Coleman showed some good stuff in 2018, averaging 26 yards on 23 kickoff returns for the Giants.

Javon Leake went undrafted out of Maryland as a running back, and he adds value in the return game, something that attracted the Giants. He was named the Rodgers-Dwight Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year after averaging 26.8 yards per kick return last season. His two touchdown returns tied Torrey Smith’s career Maryland record.

Cody Core was re-signed based on his prowess on coverage units and veteran Nate Ebner was signed after exceling with the Patriots.

Other than Rosas’ downturn, the Giants special teams in 2019 were the most consistent unit on an inconsistent team. With stability at coaching and in the kicking game, Judge’s arrival and some upgrades in the return game, this has the potential to be a top-five unit.

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