Anatomy of the Brandon Jennings Deal | Zagsblog
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Tuesday / June 25.
  • Anatomy of the Brandon Jennings Deal

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    The history-making deal that sent American high school basketball phenom Brandon Jennings to a professional club in Italy was brokered early Tuesday morning in a hotel room at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas.

    After Jennings, 18, his family and his advisors had dinner with grassroots sneaker czar Sonny Vaccaro Monday night, Jennings returned to his hotel suite with Vaccaro and Dejan Bodiroga, the GM of the Virtus Roma team in Rome. Together they spoke on the phone with Virtus Roma head coach Jasmin Repesa, who was in Greece. After Vaccaro left at about 11 p.m., Jennings’ Los Angeles-based attorney, Jeff Valle, remained to negotiate with the Italians.

    When the deal was finally struck at about 12:30 Tuesday morning, Jennings, a 6-foot-2 guard from Lakewood, Calif., who spent the last two years at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., had a guaranteed three-year multimillion dollar deal with options allowing him to escape after each year. Jennings will reportedly make approximately $600,000 not including endorsements his first year.

    “It’s a brave new world,” Vaccaro, declining to give specific terms, said Thursday in a phone interview. “(The contract) is very good and each year is much more (money). Compared to the American dollar, it’s very substantial. It’s a very good contract for someone untested in these waters, for a European team to step out like this for an 18-year-old with no European experience. The only Americans they get are guys who played in the league (NBA) or played college basketball, so this is a whole new world for them.”

    Jennings will live in Rome with his mother, Alice Knox, and his younger brother, Terrance, who will enroll in an English-speaking school and play for a junior club team in Rome.

    Said Bodiroga in a statement: “I am really happy for his arrival in Rome. Brandon is one of the greatest American talents and he is considered as one of the top players for the next NBA Draft. It’s a big deal for us to have a player with such qualities.”

    Valle said that Jennings’ family has retained a local prominent Italian attorney, Giovanni Imbergamo, to serve as legal counsel in Rome and work directly with the team on all matters.

    “I’m ready to go,” said Jennings, who opted to skip his freshman season at Arizona in the wake of questions regarding his standardized test score. “I can’t believe this happened so fast. Sonny said that all of the European teams were in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League so everyone he wanted to see was there.”

    Vaccaro said seven clubs in five countries — Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain and Russia — expressed interest in Jennings after watching him work out last week at the Tarkanian Center in Las Vegas.

    “He basically auditioned,” Vaccaro said. “That was the only time they saw him other than films. Spain wanted us to wait until July 23. Israel wanted to wait until the coach flew over. Everybody wanted him, but no one was prepared to put a contract on.

    “Brandon wanted to get it done with and he had a leaning toward Rome before it even started because it’s an international city and there’s a lot of English-speaking people there.”

    Virtus Roma reached the final 16 of the EuroLeague Championships last year when former Penn guard Ibby Jaaber and former Villanova guard Allan Ray were on the roster. On Wednesday Roma lost point guard Roko Ukic to the Toronto Raptors, creating an opening.

    Now that the deal has been struck, what will Brandon’s role on the team be?

    “He’ll play an awful lot,” Vaccaro said. “That was one of the prerequisites. They want him. They didn’t sign him not to play him.”

    What happens to Virtus Roma if Jennings leaves for the NBA after one year?

    “Well, they’ll get another (point guard),” Vaccaro said. “That’s not uncommon in all of Europe. Every European team has a buyout when they sign someone for substantial money, meaning if Brandon is drafted and he goes to the NBA next year, then the team that drafts him will pay a buyout fee to the club. The money balances out. The Knicks paid a buyout to get Danilo Gallinari.”

    Will every NBA team scout Jennings next year?

    “Every NBA team now has European scouts,” Vaccaro said. “He’ll be scouted more here than he would’ve been at Arizona.”

    What does this all mean for the NBA and its 19-year-old age limit?

    “What we’re doing is basically what (NBA Commissioner) David (Stern) said we could do,” Vaccaro said. “David said that he’s not telling the kids that they have to go to college. They could play basketball in the NBDL or in Europe. And Brandon’s going to play in Europe.

     “This is not a direct affront to the NBA at all. It’s what is in the rules today as we know them. Brandon Jennings just had no desire to go through all the other stuff. He just wanted to be a professional and he did it.”

    Vaccaro insisted that Jennings did qualify for Arizona, but chose not to attend.

    “He passed, they flagged it (his test scores),” Vaccaro said. “He just said he was going to (go to Europe). He basically said he wants to go and learn more.”

    Now that Jennings has made this decision, will others follow? Will Lance Stephenson, Derrick Caracter or Renardo Sidney follow suit?

    Stephenson, a 6-5 guard who has led Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School to three straight PSAL championships, said he would wait and see how the Jennings Saga turns out before making a decision about his own future.

    “I’m looking at Brandon right now, see how he’s doing. If he goes there [to Europe] then I’ll see how it is,” Stephenson said recently. “If I do it, then I’ll do it, but right now I’m thinking about college.”

    The 6-10 Sidney, also considered one of the elite players in the Class of 2009 and a friend of Stephenson, might also consider going overseas, although he has a long list of top American colleges courting him.

    “Brandon’s decision will definitely have an effect on the younger kids,” Sidney’s father, Renardo Sidney Sr., told “For us, it’s definitely an option.”

    Vaccaro wouldn’t speculate on who might follow Jennings, but believes someone will.

    “Do I think somebody will do it in the future?” Vaccaro asked. “Absolutely. But I think what Brandon did was show the way.Young people’s parents have already called me.”


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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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