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Jay-Z to blame for Kevin Durant quitting Team USA?

Kevin Durant Jay-Z

Kevin Durant pulled out of Team USA two weeks ago much to the shock of USA Basketball coaches, players and executives. Durant cited mental and physical fatigue as his reason for quitting the team during the middle of training camp, only weeks away from the start of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

“After going through training camp with USAB, I realized I could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint,” Durant said in a statement. “I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”

Though many took Durant for his word — and he certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt — there has been a lot of skepticism about KD’s reason for quitting the team.

USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo said Durant pulled out because of contractual obligations, but he later issued one of those “clarifications.”

We speculated that Durant pulled out because he’s concerned with his next big shoe/apparel endorsement contract. It sounds like that is the case.

In a long, rambling, and at times incoherent opinion piece, Chris Sheridan says Jay-Z, who is the man behind Durant’s new agency Roc Nation Sports, is to blame for KD withdrawing from the team.

Though Sheridan never explicitly states what Jay-Z did, he says Durant’s agent is behind the surprising decision.

And what I have discovered in talking to members of the U.S. federation over the past two days is this: Durant and his agency, Roc Nation, are more interested in cashing in on his MVP award and his expiring Nike deal than they are in having Durant keep his word to the people who were with him in 2010 in Turkey at the World Championship and in 2012 in London at the Olympics.

Sheridan points out that since signing with Jay-Z, Durant has ended many of his previous business relationships. He ended his endorsement deal with Gatorade in favor of Sparkling Ice. He is now shopping around shoe/apparel companies even though he’s been with Nike since entering the NBA.

The implication is that Durant/Jay-Z/Roc Nation are more concerned with setting up his business deals than having him participate with Team USA.

For instance, Durant spent the day at Under Armour’s headquarters on Wednesday. UA is a Maryland-based company and reportedly was preparing a monster offer for the reigning NBA MVP. Sheridan also says adidas is preparing a big offer for Durant and that the Thunder forward re-signing with Nike is still a possibility.

Sheridan mentions that Durant may not have wanted to spend several weeks around Nike people (Nike sponsors USA Basketball) while he is shopping for a new deal.

Overall, it comes across as though Sheridan has more inside information on the subject than he can share, but he feels strongly enough to write a very opinionated piece on the matter.

The bottom line is this: participation on USA Basketball is voluntary. Durant is well within his right not to play for the team. He just handled the timing of his leave very poorly.

Jay-Z and Solange fighting in Brooklyn Nets’ Gone Fishin’ photo

Brooklyn Nets gone fishin

The “Gone Fishin’” photos are one of the funnier aspects of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” coverage during the playoffs. Whenever a team is eliminated, the crew creates a Photoshopped photo of the team’s star players on a boat fishing because their season is over. There are always celebrities associated with the team that get mixed in, and sometimes the TNT crew is too. And Wednesday’s Brooklyn Nets Gone Fishin’ photo takes the cake.

Kevin Garnett in the walker and robe were pretty awesome. Jason Kidd with the lei on and sipping a coke — recall this story — was a nice touch. You have to love Larry David and Adam Sandler as the celebs. And that image of Mikhail Prokhorov on the jet ski was fantastic. But the absolute highlight was seeing team minority owner Jay-Z on the boat fighting with Beyonce’s sister, Solange.

The best part? Jay-Z’s T-shirt saying 100 problems.

Excellent touch, TNT.

Photo via Inside the NBA

Hakeem Nicks signs with Roc Nation Sports

Hakeem-Nicks-GiantsRoc Nation Sports added another talented athlete to its growing list on Thursday, as the agency announced that it has signed New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Victor Cruz, Nicks’ teammate, was one of the first big names to sign with Jay-Z’s agency last year. Like Cruz, Nicks will be represented by both Roc Nation and CAA.

Not long after signing with Roc Nation, Cruz was able to land a five-year, $43 million contract extension with the Giants. That type of money would be a stretch for Nicks, who did not catch a touchdown during the 2013 season. He has only missed a handful of games in the past three years, but Nicks always seems to be battling some sort of nagging injury.

At age 26, Nicks will certainly be able to find a few teams who are willing to take a chance on his less-than-stellar resume. He hauled in 155 passes for more than 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and there is no denying that the former North Carolina star has as much raw talent as any receiver in the league.

In all likelihood, Nicks won’t be returning to the Giants. They already have a lot of money invested at the wide receiver position and reportedly had to fine him multiple times last season. A divorce seems inevitable, but Nicks should be well represented when he hits the open market.

H/T Darren Rovell

Robinson Cano sat with Jay-Z and Beyonce at the Grammys

Robinson-Cano-Jay-Z-Grammys

Remember when people were wondering why Robinson Cano would leave Scott Boras to sign with Jay-Z and his up-and-coming sports agency. It all made perfect sense when Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. And on Sunday night, we were reminded of some of the perks that go along with being represented by Shawn Carter.

Cano sat with Jay-Z and Beyonce at the Grammy Awards. He uploaded the photo on Instagram and captioned it “La familia.” Boras probably could have gotten Seattle to pay the same amount for Cano, but I don’t think it would look as cool to sit next to Boras as it does accompany Jay-Z and Beyonce.

Anyone who believes clients won’t take stuff like this into consideration when picking Jay-Z as an agent is delusional.

CC Sabathia signs with Jay-Z’s sports agency

Jay-Z CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia is now a part of “La Familia.”

The New York Yankees ace has signed with Jay-Z’s sports agency — Roc Nation Sports — both parties announced via Twitter on Thursday night:

Once you get past the velvet drapes, candles and Starbursts, you have to wonder how much Jay-Z will be able to do for CC. Sabathia is signed with the Yankees for the next three seasons and has an option for 2017.

I can’t imagine Sabathia signed in Jan. 2014 to gear up for his big free agency push in 2016. Maybe Jay-Z has some marketing plans for the big guy.

Sabathia now joins Robinson Cano as baseball players signed with Jay-Z. Their other sports clients include Kevin Durant, Victor Cruz and Geno Smith. There are a lot of athletes with New York ties there.

Teddy Bridgewater entering NFL draft, may sign with Jay-Z

Teddy Bridgewater LouisvilleTeddy Bridgewater is leaving Louisville for the NFL draft, and a report says he may sign with Jay-Z’s sports agency.

Bridgewater is a junior and had the option of returning to school, but he had a spectacular bowl game and announced Wednesday that he is going pro. Bridgewater threw for a career-high 447 yards and three touchdowns in Louisville’s 36-9 win over Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The great performance may have propelled his stock even higher. He’s expected to be among the first players selected in the draft.

National Football Post reporter Jason Cole says Bridgewater has been talking to Jay-Z’s Roc Sports Nation and is strongly considering picking them to represent him.

Jay-Z became a sports agent last year and signed Robinson Cano, Kevin Durant, Victor Cruz, Skylar Diggins and Geno Smith.

Bridgewater expressed his thanks to Louisville in a tweet sent Wednesday:

In addition to Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney and Brett Hundley (if he decides to go pro) are also said to be considering Roc Nation Sports.

Pete Rose: Jay-Z got Robinson Cano an extra 30 days of vacation – October

Robinson-Cano-Mariners-1Pete Rose was one of the most hard-nosed players to ever sprint around a Major League Baseball diamond. Like most others who give 110% percent on a daily basis, the playoffs were important to baseball’s all-time hits leader. He appeared in 67 playoff games and had over 300 plate appearances and a .321 batting average in the postseason.

Rose doesn’t think Robinson Cano has a whole lot of meaningful fall baseball in his future. During an appearance on ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Michael Kay Show” on Wednesday, Rose was asked about the massive contract Jay-Z was able to help Cano secure. He didn’t pull any punches.

“He [Jay Z] got him a big raise, but he got him an extra 30-day vacation — and it’s called October,” Rose quipped.

I don’t know if I’d write the Mariners off just yet. If Cano is the same player in Seattle that he was with New York, he should provide the M’s with one of the game’s best middle-of-the-order bats for several years to come. Not only that, but Seattle’s brass has said it is not done dealing after signing Cano and has been exploring some intriguing trade possibilities.

As for Jay-Z, he did his job and then some. People were accusing him of costing Cano $50 million just hours before news of the $240 million deal surfaced. Not only that, but he may have gotten the Mariners to outbid themselves for his client.

Right now, everyone is thrilled. If the Mariners miss the playoffs for the next four or five seasons, we can revisit Rose’s vacation theory.