Inside The Mind Of Elijah Millsap’s Agent, Daniel Hazan

Daniel Hazan of Hazan Sports Management with Elijah Millsap of the Utah Jazz

Growing up in the boroughs of New York City, New York, Daniel Hazan didn’t have designs to be the NBA’s youngest agent. Wielding a management degree from Yeshiva University — north across the river from Yankee Stadium, just west of the Bronx — he grabbed his best friend from first grade, Andrew Hoenig, who garnered a business degree from Binghamton University, and started shop as sports agents, landing Elijah Millsap as their first big score.

Life-long basketball fans, Daniel and Andrew began Hazan Sports Management by nabbing whatever they could get — mainly overseas players with a desire to make it to the big leagues. It just kind of happened one day with a “Hey, Andrew, we love this game, we grew up with this game! Check this out. We could actually do this…” kind of thing.

Daniel already had some connections with multiple players through internships and endorsement dealings, giving Hazan the foot in the door necessary to make a move upward. Provided he could crack the code of the tightly-knit fraternity that is the inner workings of the NBA and it’s various extensions.

About 18 months ago, Hazan Sports Management was born of determination and desire, with the sprig of creativity conducive to bringing the whole recipe together. All the desire and determination in the world will get you nowhere without that last ingredient.

Hazan and Hoenig lacked the thing the “good ole boys” that have been in the biz for decades take for granted: The ever-present network within the system.

No matter. Daniel would find a way in, whatever it took. With a good heart, character, ambition, integrity and predilection for the well-being of potential clients, Hazan forged forward in the most ingenious of ways.

“I didn’t know anyone. How was I going to get in? I looked on eBay and there were business cards. Signed business cards for auction, with email addresses of executives on them. So I zoomed in and started sending emails. I got a team contact in response, who then sent me all the team contacts. We were in.”

But they didn’t have any coveted NBA clients, that validation they needed to really make a dent in the voracious world of sports agents. There was one, maybe, in the wings. The younger brother of NBA All-Star Paul Millsap, notorious for his work ethic and appetite for destruction on the court, Elijah Millsap “fell in our lap.”

 Daniel would find a way in, whatever it took. With a good heart, character, ambition, integrity and predilection for the well-being of potential clients, Hazan forged forward in the most ingenious of ways

Few knew who Paul Millsap was when he was drafted by the Jazz in 2007. Even fewer knew Elijah Millsap when he went undrafted in 2010, going on to a few NBA D-League and overseas stints before reentering NBA stock in 2014, where Hazan was told Elijah had a good chance to get a shot.

Daniel, Andrew and Elijah stayed glued to the phone together, waiting for the fateful call after that summer evening of June 26th, 2014. But like the 16th man on a roster, it stayed silent.

When it did ring, it was to tell them that “Things changed, we’re sorry. Guys moved around. We drafted too many players. Y’know, it happens.” 

“We were broken. We were devastated. All we could do now was go to summer league and hope someone noticed us.” 

When fans think of agents they think of “I’m gonna get mine,” especially in light of recent events in Utah when Enes Kanter‘s agent, Max Ergul, tried to play hardball for a max contract that Jazz brass were nowhere near to capitulating, eventually jettisoning both as more trouble than they were worth.

Daniel Hazan is a refreshing breath of fresh air in this capacity. Talk shop with Hazan for more than a few minutes and you’ll hear the word “integrity” bounced off of you several times. And it tends to stick.

 Daniel Hazan is a refreshing breath of fresh air in this capacity. Talk shop with Hazan for more than a few minutes and you’ll hear the word “integrity” bounced off of you several times. And it tends to stick

Clint Peterson: I’m gonna bounce a few names off you. Tell me who you’d emulate:

Dan Fegan
Rob Pelinka
Mark Bartlestein
David Falk

Daniel Hazan (with no hesitation): Bartlestein. And I’ll tell you why. They’re ethical. They’re professional. They deal in unique aspects for their athletes, going further for them. They do business with integrity and make sure their clients’ well being is taken care of.

Basketball isn’t forever.

The average NBA career is only 4.8 years.

At Hazan, we want to be able to help players in a 50-year relationship, not a five-year relationship. We want to use basketball as a platform, a launching pad, where players can use it to branch out to future endeavors.

It’s a long view that few at the tender age of 23 really get. Daniel is the exception to the rule, seeing farther than the headlights can possibly illuminate. It’s the kind of view that those in the NBA front office and NBA Player’s Union would appreciate.

Daniel Hazan must have used the word “integrity” at least a dozen times in our conversation, and not once did it have that nauseous buzzword feel to it when he said it. When Daniel says it, it comes naturally, genuine, like his demeanor. Not dirty, like when you hear it out of context, forced, by an agent that might be behind the ball, chasing a public relations gaff after the fact.

You know how sometimes after you talk to someone you suddenly need a shower and a pumice stone? After chatting with Daniel you’re far more likely to say “Hey, man, wanna grab a cold one?”

CP: You do social media? 

DH: Well, yeah. Of course.

CP: Can I throw a couple Twitter Qs at ya?

DH: Sure!

DH: No comment. 

CP: Spoken like a true agent!

Paul and Elijah Millsap’s uncle DeAngelo Simmons has been a big influence on not only them, but Daniel as well. If it wasn’t for Simmons, Hazan Sports would have never landed it’s first NBA client. The younger Millsap had not only bounced around the basketball world, but also around it’s agency world as well, before being referred to Hazan Sports, specifically Daniel.

It’s a relationship that all hope to hang onto for a long time.

After the brutality and disappointment of not ending up on an NBA roster again, Hazan and Elijah Millsap got a call from the Philadelphia 76er’s to play in the Las Vegas Summer League. Millsap would impress with his defense, shutting down Jazz rookie Dante Exum and reeling in a LVSL record seven steals in a game, showcasing that tenacious defense that would later become his hallmark as a Jazzman.

The fit didn’t feel right to Hazan, so emboldened by recent success, he asked for a trade to a coach and team that would better suit his client’s skill set and availability

Elijah Millsap had gotten his shot with the Sixers after injury — and the relentless pursuit of a roster spot somewhere, catalyzed by Hazan — and they’d get their next chance with a training camp position with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Seeing a client in an NBA jersey for the first time, Daniel couldn’t help but be ecstatic by the buzz. “This is amazing! We’ve gone so far, we’re not giving up now!” 

Elijah Millsap wouldn’t make the regular season roster, but Hazan could feel the momentum building when his guy was picked up by the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

However, the fit didn’t feel right to Hazan, so emboldened by recent success, he asked for a trade to a coach and team that would better suit his client’s skill set and availability, to the Bakersfield Jam.

It was a perfect fit, ultimately, a move Hazan says “was the most integral part of advancing Elijah’s career.”

With the Bakersfield Jam, Millsap averaged 21 points on only 15 shots, bringing in 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals per game, netting an amazing trip-dub on the way in his own version of the Millsap Miracle game.

The J Notes, January 23, 2015, Elijah Millsap May Stick In Utah

When the call-up to the Utah Jazz came, you might expect Daniel was doing cartwheels, or shots, or shooting off fireworks, right? Wrong. He missed the call altogether. 

DH: I’d gone to change my watch battery when we got the call from the Jazz front office. When they brought me the phone we were jumping up and down screaming.

Elijah would go on to set the NBA record for most minutes played on a 10-day contract, leading to his three-year signing (of which only this season is guaranteed, of course, but we’re confident).

CP: As you should be. He’s a Millsap after all, and we love our Millsaps in Utah! Speaking of Paul, did he help Elijah settle into Utah?

DH: Oh yeah, Paul knows his way around Salt Lake, obviously. He played a big part in Elijah’s life in the transition to there. Elijah really likes it in Utah, there’s a family feeling. This helps us to help our players’ success, welcomes us to their success.

CP: How do you arrive at a dollar amount for a player in contract negotiations?

DH: In our position — and our players — we’re new to the table. It’s a matter of figuring out where your client lies within the market. The last thing you wanna do is ask too much. You have to break it down by the month, by the week, especially if you have a player without a guaranteed contract.

CP: How often do you communicate with teams?

DH: Pretty often. You want to stay in contact to some degree all the time, especially right now as we’re prepping for the offseason. You want to always stay in contact.

In negotiations, it’s tough. You have to try to get the best for your client while also keeping a relationship with the team. It’s a happy medium.

CP: Who do you have on your radar, who are you targeting for the future? Anyone we should keep an eye on?

DH: No comment.

CP: Gotta ask.

It’s been a pleasure. Before we go, another couple Twitter Qs?

DH: Shoot!

CP: This one will seem a little weird, but, hey, Twitter…

DH: Before.

CP: Uh oh…

This last has been on the brain of NBA Twitter for as long as I can recall. It’s a staple.

DH: Nahhhh!! There’s not a kosher pizza place in New York that would put pineapple on pizza. No way!

We look forward to more from Daniel and Hazan Sports Management in the future, including a special treat for Utah Jazz fans. Be sure to check out their site and follow them on Twitter @hazansportsmgmt.

H/T Ronnie Levi