Going behind the scenes of the James Harden trade with Jarrett Allen's agent

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Ian Begley
·8 min read
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Jarrett Allen smiles with the Cavaliers
Jarrett Allen smiles with the Cavaliers

Last Tuesday, Jarrett Allen was traded from Brooklyn to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the James Harden deal. In the Q&A below, Derrick Powell, Allen’s agent, takes SNY behind the scenes in the days leading up to the trade and how things played out once the deal went through.

SNY: What was Wednesday like for you as an agent, trying to handle everything going on when such a big trade goes down involving your client.

POWELL: It was really busy. ... I felt something was going to happen, but did not know that Jarrett was going to be involved. And Jarrett gave me a call right before he left to go to Madison Square Garden and told me he had been moved. Now, that's not normally how it goes. Normally the GM will call you. But Sean, in his defense, said he was trying to reach Jared first, before he headed out to the game. So he tried to catch Jarrett and then he called me when I was on the phone with Jarrett. And it was tough. It was tough. And Sean actually said that it was tough for him to actually let Jarrett go because he had Jarrett since Day One and Jarrett has shown so much progress that he just did not want to let him go.

SNY: It's got to be tough because he drafted him and he watched him grow into where he is today. I would imagine that he was probably one of the last players he wanted to put in a deal. This has been kind of brewing for weeks now, even before the season. For you, do you check in with the Nets and see where things are? Do you check in with other people to try to see where things are? Or do you just let it kind of play out as it's gonna play out?

POWELL: Well, a little of both, right? I have a great relationship with Sean Marks. So I'll call Sean. We'll talk about family. We'll talk about basketball. We'll talk about the past, because I represented a guy by the name of Devin Brown. He played for the Spurs. And that was one of Sean's teammates. So I’ve known Sean for years, we have a great relationship. So I usually check in periodically just to see what's going on. And everything that was happening in the past with rumors of trades and James Harden coming to Brooklyn, Sean had assured me at that point that Jared was not mentioned in any of those calls, that they had no intention of moving Jarrett. But I've been doing this now 21 years and I understand the business and basketball. So I know that things happen. And my job with Jarrett (is), I always prepare him and teach him how the business works, because I never want him to be disappointed, blindsided or not know exactly how the business of basketball works. So, I was surprised but nothing is so surprising that it crushes you in this business, for me.

SNY: What do you think about Jarrett's opportunity in Cleveland? Obviously, he’s a restricted free agent coming up this offseason. I'm sure there's going to be a ton of interest. How does that work on your end when you're trying to get him to Cleveland after the news breaks. And then how do you feel about his opportunity with the Cavs?

POWELL: I was getting text messages, calls from everywhere, calling Jarrett, talking to his mom, talking to Coby Altman, talking to Sean Marks, trying to prepare Jarrett of things he may need, which, No. 1 was a bigger coat. Definitely. And Jordan McRae played with Cleveland when they won the championship. So I spent a lot of time in Cleveland. So I was telling Jarrett, 'listen, there's not a lot to do there. It's not New York. You know, you can't get around as easy.' So just trying to prepare him for that, taking phone calls and talking to the coach in Cleveland, finding out how they plan on playing him. I said, ‘Listen, Jarrett’s not gonna be a third big there, right? (The Cavs said) ‘No, no, no. He's not.’ (There’s) just so many different things that you try to smooth over before the process actually takes off.

SNY: When you get the call that a client has been traded, how does the process work to get them to their next destination and be set up? They’re moving their whole life in a matter of hours?

POWELL: According to the CBA, they have to put him up for 46 days. So finding a home is not (the biggest immediate concern). The biggest thing is getting him to his destination, finding out where he’s staying, the number of his jersey. ‘What are your plans with them? How do you see him fitting into your system?’ They flew Jared out Thursday. He took his physical when he got there Thursday and he went to shootaround Friday. So as far as him playing, that turns around pretty fast. But the toughest part about my job was making sure that the transition was smooth. How to get his car to Cleveland. Make sure that once we find a place, we can pack things up in Brooklyn to have the moving company come move it. So working alongside the teams and building relationships with teams that you haven’t been around in quite some time, you try to do that seamlessly just to make it a smooth transition.

SNY: Derrick, for you personally, you recently made a professional move. What was the decision-making process like for you to make that move after you had been working closely with Ja Morant at your previous firm?

POWELL: It was tough. It was not just dealing with Ja. It was tough in general to make a move when you've been with a group that you feel like is family to you. I was with Tandem from the inception and I was the vice-president there. So to help build a program or a business with some people that you enjoy being around, it’s always tough to leave. Ja is just an extraordinary kid, an extraordinary man. He's a phenomenal guy, meaning not just as a basketball player, he's a great person. The Morant family, they're great people. They were not part of my process of getting out there at all. You sometimes hit a place where you feel like it's just time to make a change. It's time to do something new. And I had to look at it like, ‘what am I leaving?’ Some of the relationships that I was leaving can be pretty hard when you’re thinking about that decision.

For me, it was something I had to do. Ja and I are still really, really good friends. His family, we're pretty close. I just wish him the best, man. But he's the type of kid that what you see from him on the floor – the tenacity, the grinding, the energy, everything that defines his game – that’s who he is as a person. He’s not a diva. He's not a guy that feels like you owe him anything. He's taken what he wants and he works hard for what he wants. So he's going to be a success. He's the next guy up, for sure.

SNY: With all the uncertainty this past offseason – COVID-19, nobody knew when the season was going to start back up, financials were up in the air. How tough did that make this free agency period for an agent?

POWELL: I can't speak for every agent but it made it tough for some of the guys that were fringe guys. For instance, Jordan McRae, who I represent - Jordan had the best year of his career. And the whole COVID situation with being traded to Detroit, Detroit not making the bubble, it really put a damper on him because when free agency comes around, they haven't seen this guy in months. And everybody forgets (what he did last season). First of all, he's probably the best backup guard that the Washington Wizards have ever had behind Bradley Beal. Brad has never had a backup like Jordan McRae. Brad went down those seven games, Jordan shot almost 50 percent from the three and shot six threes-plus per game, averaging 20-plus points during that period. And they beat teams like Miami, Portland. They were winning games.

So now getting caught up in the teeth of the business once again, he's of value. So they trade him to Denver. Mike Malone, I can't fault him, he had his roster already set. So we were eventually traded to Detroit, where he was expected to play very well. His first game, off the plane, goes straight to the arena plays and he has 15 that game against OKC. Played extremely well. Three games later, the league is shut down because of the virus. So he only played four games with Detroit. And that hurt him in free agency.

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Cleveland
+110+2.5O 217.5
Houston
-134-2.5U 217.5