You know why every 19, 20, 21-year-old with a shot at going in the top 10 of the NBA Draft needs a handler? Because the ones who don't have them get trashed by grown men looking out for only themselves. Witness the case of Nerlens Noel.
Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal has a fine piece looking at Noel's reputation as we inch closer to the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday. At the core of the story is a national radio guy -- ESPN's Ryen Russillo -- publicly spreading a pretty nasty picture of Noel that then has to be cleaned up by Noel's "camp" and other reporters. Russillo told Bill Simmons' podcast listeners that Noel was a flake who didn't show up to meetings with prospective agents and has "epic bad dudes" around him. Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Mary Schmitt Boyer visited Noel in Alabama, where he is rehabbing his knee. Stunningly, she found no "epic bad dudes."
Noel, who recently hired agent Andy Miller, explains where the nasty rumors Russillo passed on came from.
"It was definitely provoked by agents that I didn't meet with," Noel said. "I was mainly focusing on rehab and I told my adviser that. I told him, 'Just tell them I'm not meeting with any agents.' I guess they took that personally."
This is like the 15-year-old boy who strikes out with a girl he fancies, only to turn around and tell his friends she's easy (or worse). And these are grown men. I don't blame Russillo much. The currency of draft season is information, and for whatever reason we think so-called professionals aren't going to lie to our faces due to personal vendettas against 19-year-olds. So Russillo believes what an agent who tried to hook Noel tells him, spreads that information via a popular media channel and later finds out he has been played. The next step for Russillo should be blowing up whatever agent fed him the bunk info, or making it clear to said bunk agent that it's not happening again. In the latter case, the agent will just drop his bait for another reporter, and the cycle will go on.
The problem here is the grown men, the so-called professionals, acting like characters too over-the-top for the cast of Mean Girls. Not all agents are sleazy, but the few who are sleazy are really sleazy. And that potential for sleaze pretty much demands the hiring of an experienced agent by prospects like Noel, since it takes an agent to know how this gross cycle works.