"On n'a aucune promesse de draft d'une franchise pour l'instant" : Yann Balikouzou, agent de Killian Hayes
Il y a 9 jours
Killian Hayes, français expatrié à Ulm (Allemagne) cette saison a fait tourner des têtes parmi les responsables de franchises NBA. Il fait partie des joueurs pouvant intégrer le top 10 (top 5 ?) de la prochaine draft. Le point sur ses interviews avec les équipes, sur le processus pré-draft, avec son agent Yann Balikouzou.
ENVERGURE : Yann, comment va la santé de Killian ?
YANN BALIKOUZOU :
Welcome to Envergure, this is a brand new podcast.
The draft date is 16th of october in case you missed it, we are going to dive into the latest draft process intel, and we are going to catch up on the latest Killian Hayes news
He could be a top 10 pick of the 2020 draft, his agent is with us today, Yann Balikouzou, thank you for being our guest and welcome
YANN : Thank you for inviting me
And to conduct this interview with me, Ben is here (Benoit Lelievre), live from Montreal how are you man ?
BEN : I'm absolutely fine, how are you ?
ALEX : on hollidays so i'm fine as well
BEN : Life's good then
ALEX : Indeed, this is Envergure, episode 32, season 3, here we go
ALEX : First question Yann : how is Killian ? Is he healthy ? He's in the United States am I right ?
YANN : He's fine, he's in the USA since March 13th, he's working, everything is going fine, he's working really well.
We had the opportunity to get a private gym so he could workout during the lockdown in Florida. It really is a chance, several players had to work out in much more difficult conditions, we did not suffer about. So he's fine and he is working.
ALEX : How come he had access to this gym ? Is he training with other NBA players ?
YANN : Not during the lockdown, today workouts with other players are starting gradually. We had this opportunity because those pre draft workouts it has been planned since last summer. We had planned that after this season he was going to take a week or two in Orlando with his family, recover from the season, and work with an osteopath / kinesiologist. The season was supposed to be long so that was the plan so he could recover, and then he could go to Chicago to work with Will Bynum (his mentor). We had to adapt because of the Covid, i called his trainer in Orlando, he said to me that he had access to a gym and he could take care of Killian.
So after March 13th he took just a week "off" to rest a bit, then he started to work again. It was work to stay ready at first, and then trying to work on some aspects that were weaknesses according to some. The state of mind was : ok, Corona is here, we are going to use this time as a competitive advantage. His trainer had access to this private gym, which belongs to a pastor, who teaches in a religious school.
ALEX : Right now, end of June, what does a typical Killian Hayes' day look like ? What is he working on ?
YANN : Since June 22nd, he starts his day at 11, he's working with a fitness trainer. We want him to gain power in his upper body, not epspecially to increase muscle mass. The goal for Killian is to become an above average athlete in the NBA. In Europe, he's considered as a good athlete, in the NBA he's average for now, we want him above average. We have four months, it's perfect. The pre draft work he is going to do, it's about getting him ready for the NBA season, not being ready for the wourkouts, for the draft process, but really it's about being ready for next season.
So at 11, he's working with the fitness trainer. At 1PM he has a basketball centered workout. From day to day he's going to be able to do pickup, one versus one, two versus two, I don't know about five on five. He has already started to train with Dwayne Bacon this week, and they are going to do it again next week. A lot of NBA players live nearby Orlando, where he is. We had the opportunity to do pickups with pro players in Europe or NCAA players, but we don't think it's relevenat with his father, we want him to start getting ready for the NBA, to see what it's about already, to train with NBA players.
As for the end of July, he's heading to Los Angeles, he is going to workout with Will Bynum and Pat Beverley, so that should be great for him.
BEN : Wow
YANN : Pat Beverley and Will Bynum are close friends
ALEX : Yes Will told us about that (in a previous podcast)
YANN : Pat asked Will to get him ready for the restart of the season, so Will take the opportunity to get Killian to work with them.
BEN : Is he going to use the famous Pat Bev Timberland beach training ?
YANN : I don't know, but if you are tracking how Killian trains, he's doing a lot of sand work. It's going to be interesting, if I can travel to the West Coast i'd definitely want to see that.
BEN : Draft day was supposed to be last week, now we know it's October 16th, how are you going to handle this, is he going to rest or going full speed towards the draft ?
YANN : It was definitely the biggest challenge, as soom as he landed in Florida, he had a 7 - 10 days resting time. He started to work phisically at home, he bought fitness equipment to work at home. Then he started trainings, but not everyday, it was 3 days a week, theo ohter he was working his body at home. I was in touch with the NBPA, trying to know what was going on, how it was going to be. They said the draft was going to happen in august or september, not october, we heard end of september. We talked and decided to start the pre draft work only when we would know for the the draft date. Because for a Europrospect, the pre draft takes 6 weeks or so, two months maximum.
We didn't want him to be overtrained, because he already did two months of work last summer in Los Angeles, he had a full season before the Corona. So working out for six months non stop like a madman and then going straight to work again with his franchise, it did not make sense. So he had a break, and now he's working five days a week, two times a day.
ALEX : So you're taling about the pre draft process, we don't know yet what it will ressemble really. What we know : early entry candidates will be given until August 17th to declare, then they have until October 6th to withdraw. It's respectively two months and ten days before the draft, that's the NBA rules. The draft date is October 16th. Most of the candidates have already declared and they don't have to do it again Yann..
YANN : No
ALEX : It's already done. There's another date to have in mind it's August 3rd, it doesn't apply to Hayes but to NCAA underclassmen. The NCAA has set this date as the deadline to come back to school or not, they have to decide, it' a matter of scolarships because the classes resume sometimes as early as the beginning of August. So Yann, what are the latest informations you have ? Are there going to be teams workouts ? Workouts only in one place ? Where are the medicals testing are going to happen ?
YANN : It's only talk for now, the NBA leak informations to Woj' and work as well with the NBPA. I have one information from the NBPA not leaked yet to Woj' : the most plausible scenario, apparently, there would be an NBA workout in the bubble, in Orlando. It seems really challenging, what about the players ? Would they have to quarantine before going there ? They come from all over the world. In Florida, there is a coronavirus resurgence, so that's the last thing I heard, last week.
ALEX : No workouts inside franchises' infrastructures ?
YANN : A priori no, the latest trend was toward a combine inside the Bubble, and potentially pro day with agencies.
BEN : Have you already worked on setting up a pro day for Killian ?
YANN : As long as we don't know if it will be authorized, it's complicated. We are on our toes, it's been one year now that I joined ISE (Independant Sports and Entertainment), based in Los Angeles. They have a background of organising pro days in LA, we also have signed Cassius Stanley (Duke), so if a pro day is necessary and possible we will be able to organize it pretty quickly.
ALEX : Ben can you explain to the listeners what a pro day is ?
BEN : It's a workout organized by an agencie or the people who represent a player. Teams are invited to scout the player, sometimes it's one on one, sometimes one on zero. The last pro day which made a lot of noise was Kristaps Prozingis' one in 2015, most of the top 10 teams were fighting to get a spot.
ALEX : We are now going to talk about the pre draft interviews, Ben has some questions about it
BEN : Has it already begun ?
YANN : For a while now, and it has slowed down a bit. For a month, Killian had one interview a day, from monday to friday.
BEN : So every team has contacted him ?
YANN : Not every team, not every lottery team neither but most of them. What's interesting and what makes me thinik that front offices are thinking about multiple scenarios, is that one team with no first round picks has been getting informations about Killian AND has conducteud an interview with him. Also, teams with absolutely no chance to get a lottery pick have been scouting him a lot this season and were among the first to ask for an interview.
BEN : This is the year to do that, there are probably going to be trades, a lot of players are equally talented. How does it work an interview with an NBA team ? How long ? Which questions ?
YANN : It takes about 45 minutes, one hour. Basic questions like the position he envisions himself playing in the NBA, some are more intimated like "do you have a girlfriend"... Yeah... A lot of questions about his future, is he going to buy a house, a lot of stuff like that. And there are some teams, I can say it, like Orlando, they send you a test. Two other teams have done that i can't remember. Orlando sends you an Ipad with a test on it.
ALEX : IQ test right ?
YANN : Not only IQ, also personnality test, it is really specific...
BEN : What's your opinion about it ? Last year we had a podcast with one of the people who makes and interprets these personnality tests (Eric Weiss), he said agent were sometimes reluctant...
YANN : The chance we had is that we have connexions so we could see some of the questions before and prepare Killian for it. For a player like him, his personnality, it's not really complicated to get interviewed. We prepared it, we made a 'mock interview' with people from the agency, with the questions we already had, to prepare him, to get him confortable. But I told him, "it's not as if you had a borderline personnality, be yourself, that's all they want to know". I don't think there arer wrong answers, they just want to know who Killian is, I don't have any problem with him going on a lot of interviews, I could have had issues with it if Killian was not mature enough, we would have made less interviews I think, to expose him less, that's how the draft works.
BEN : Killian has one big weakness in his game, his right hand, have teams asked him about that during interviews ?
YANN : From the feedbacks he gave me, I don't think so. But you have to know, before the interviews I had calls with several General Mangers and others. I had made it clear he was in the USA and training, for them to know about that, and I told them what he was working on. Part of it is based around his right hand. He knows how to use his right hand, so the work he's doing is about getting confortable with it, about acclimating to use it when he has to
BEN : When he drives, when the defense put pressure on him, when he get double teamed...
YANN : Absolutely, exactly. He has one fitness trainer and two basketball trainers. One of the two works with him to develop his skills, the other one puts him in game situations, especially with his right hand, how to execute skip passes to the corner, to finish with his right hand, floaters, first dribble, dribble around a pick, everything he has to do with his right hand
BEN : Last thing about the interviews, how conducts it ? Are GM's here ?
YANN : Yes there are a lot of people from the staff, I would say a little less than 10 persons in the room. Usually the GM is here, sometimes the coach is as well. I know when Killian did Boston, Brad Stevens was here, he even told Killian he was his son's favorite player, for the record. Scouts are here, the player development coach, he has also met several President of Basketball Operations. So yeah it depends on the team, but most of the time a little less than 10 person are here for the interview.
BEN : Was New York among the teams ?
YANN : He did New York yes
BEN : I'm relieved, it wuld make a lot of sense
ALEX : About Killian's preferences, are there any franchises or city he would want to play for/in ? The draft is about teams strategy but also sometimes players strategy. Have you refused some interviews ?
YANN : We have, some teams we or he didn't want him to go
ALEX : Why didn't he want to ?
YANN : We did not have good feedbacks around these teams. I don't know about Killian, but if it was just me I don't care which position he gets drafted. What I care about is the long term vision, the development system, the way they going to use him. He could be drafted in the top 10, top 5 even , it would be extraordinary. But if he is picked with the 16th, 17th, 18th pick, in a good situation, a team which develops young players, I would sign it today.
ALEX : Is he a fan, has he preferences for a team or another ?
YANN : Not espcially, he's not a fan at all, he's not that kind of guy. I will tell you something that maybe will make you smile, but until last season, he did not watch full NBA Games, only highlights.
BEN : Was focused on his own games...
YANN : About what he did himself yes, that was what he cared about. He watched only highlights before that, we talked about that with him and Deron (Killian's father). He had a great time watching full NBA games this year. I think last year he did watch more Euroleague and less NBA.
BEN : I think it really is good for him, to focus on the moment, not envisionning himself as someone he is not yet, I think it's a positive sign about his personnality. Tell me Yann, during these interviews, did he get along more with some franchises ?
YANN : It's funny I was talking about that with other agents, and for now the teams are not really showing their hands. Usually they would say : "if he's available at this position, we draft him", but for now they wouldn't, all they're saying is, "we like him a lot".
ALEX : So no promises from any team ?
YANN : No. I know teams are really interested, they scouted him all season long, but no promises as of today (June 29th)
ALEX : So if we say, "Killian Hayes will be a lottery pick", it could be wrong ?
YANN : Of course, it depends how the lottery turns out, that what i'm saying to everyone. We know which team would draft a pointguard, a player like Killian who can create, but as long as we don't have the lottery it is just fiction.
ALEX : There is some bluff going on during the draft process, some player you are going to expose more, some less. For example at the beginning of the interview I asked you if Killian was healthy, it's not necessarly the type of information an agent would give right away. How do you find the balance between transparency and secret, for your player ?
YANN : The problem is, teams are REALLY weel-informed. I could hide whatever I want to a team, the franchise will find about it. They even hire private investigators right now to gather informations about players. I can try to hide but they would eventually find out.
BEN : Not the first time we heard about spying stories in this podcast...
YANN : Of course ! That's why transparency is the better option. If tomorrow Killian is injured, I would rather send the doctor's report to the teams with the X-ray and a message explaining the situation, than trying to hide it at first before it is all revealed. That would be disastrous.
ALEX : Knock on wood...
YANN : Obviously. I have a wooden floor it's ok.
BEN : It's your first NBA draft as an agent am I right
YANN : You are
BEN : How come you are in this position ?
YANN : I know Killian for a long time, I use to be his father's agent at the end oh his carreer. When we realize the draft was going to be a reality for Killian we had to step up. I already had my NBA license, since 2014 so that was not a problem. I knew that was where I wanted to go. No disrespect for the FIBA, but I did everything in Europe, sign players in Euroleague teams, in big leagues like the spanish one. I did everything and to me this job is like basketball, I want to reach the higher level. I played basketball at a lower level and I want to compete. The NBA was always a goal, to do business in this league. I had to be really proactive to match Killian's game and expectations, climb the ladder with him. I had a previous experiment in the NBA because I am Yakhouba Diawara's agent. He almost went back to the NBA, in Memphis, and I was behind that. The only reason why he did not make the roster at the time, it's because the backup 5, Brandan Wright, got injured during the last preseason game. Yakhouba was playing well, but they needed a 5-man, so they signed Ryan Hollins.
BEN : That's really terrible, Ryan Hollins... (laugh)
YANN : And Yakhouba had a good season, playing with a great team in Limoges, but we could have had an opportunity, that was a calamity of a season for Memphis, with a lot of injuries. Ryan Hollins was in the starting five at some point. I can't remember his name... Matt Barnes ! Matt Barnes was the team's best scorer. I remember when Memphis cut Yak', they wanted him to stay with the G-League team, but he has a family so he went back to Europe. If he had stayed in the G-League, he would have had a call up pretty quickly.
BEN : That was the year they signed a lot of players
YANN : Exactly
BEN : Was there pittfalls during this pre draft process ? Something unexpected ?
YANN : The biggest was the coronavirus but appart from that no. The biggest challenge was to change our plan, everything we had in mind for a month and a half, had to happen for four months. Finding the right rythm, the right program, keeping him ready without risking the injury, without overtraning him. The future will say if we did right, but that was the biggest challenge. Now everything is in order, he is feeling really well, we are listening carefully, he is a hard worker.
BEN : He doesn't seem to be hard to motivate ? How does he feel about this process ?
YANN : Psychologically he is fine. He apprends thing really peacefully. I remember when they got back to Florida with his family, I called him a few days after to knw how he felt about this uncertainty. He answered this : "listen, if it had happened last year, I could have been worried, I wouldn't have been sure of being drafted. Now i'm sure, I just have to work, I am not worried, maybe last summer I would have", but worrying is not really a character trait of his. He really is trouble-free right now.
BEN : Wonderful
ALEX : You said earlier that the important thing for you was for him to get drafted in a good environment, however, what would be a successful draft for Killian ? Is there a goal to reach ? We know a 5th pick is paid twice as much as a 15th.
YANN : It is clear that the higher he gest drafted the better. When you look at the numbers, in the NBA today if you want to make money it's the second contract. To me the important is to be in a great situation during his first 4 years. The important is not his rookie scale, how much he is going to earn right now, we want to establish a good base and build from it. It is true that we have high goals for him as soon as next year, that's not about the draft, him being n°1 or n°5, even if I would love it. The important is the situation, and how he plays next year : is he going to make an All-NBA Rookie Team ? THAT could be a target. Is he going to play in the rookie game ? Is he going to be in the discussion for ROY ? That's more important than his draft position.
ALEX : True. I forgot the question earlier, about the interviews. If I say, Cleveland, Minnesota, Golden State, the three teams with the better chances to land the #1 pick (14%). Has he interviewed with them ?
YANN : He didn't do Cleveland. He hasn't done Minnesota's interview but he will, same thing for Golden State. He won't do Cleveland, for sure, it is not a secret, they probably won't draft a guard, they're are not intersted in a guard, I spoke with them, the chances they'd draft a guard are really thin. Killian should interview with Minneosta and Goldent State though.
ALEX : Last question for me. How are you going to handle the medias ? He made just a few interviews with french medias ? Are you keeping him from the medias ?
YANN : You can notice he has basically no interviews this year, even though we had a lot of requests. We did it during the quarantine, because we have been harassed by the media (Ben laughs) who were dying for content because of the coronavirus. We decided he was going to interview only with 'big' medias, not really often. This way he can tell what he want to tell ("give his speeches" he said), he has a double page in L'Equipe (french n°1 sports daily newspaper), that was nice. He did an interview on BeIn Sports (french private netword which owns the right to broadcast the NBA), I don't think he will do others in France, maybe some as the draft get closer, but it will be more mainstream media not sports medias. He did a few thing in the USA, a podcast on the Uninterrupted.
BEN : He did the breakdown with Mike Schmitz of ESPN.
YANN : That was durgin the season
BEN : Absolutely great
YANN : Really interesting, I was in the room, interesting to see the breakdown of how Killian manipulates defenders and stuff like that.
BEN : And how he responded to the criticism, sometimes Mike Schmitz point some weaknesses. I watched it and Killian was really calm, stable.
YANN : That was a bit of a worry with Killian's father, sometimes he put the players in front of big weaknesses. I know Mike, it often makes me smile when he says "you maybe should have done that", to a prospect. But we expected the breakdown to be saltier. And Killian was really clear-headed about his strenghts and weaknesses.
BEN : We, in this podcast, are draft nerds all year long. But there's a hype from springtime with all the mock drafts and stuff. One really popped, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor put Killian in the top spot of his mock draft. Does Killian read it ? Does it matter to him ?
YANN : He doesn't read the media ?
ALEX : Even the national information medias ?
YANN : He doesn't read the basketball medias. His father and I are really paying attention to it, but we don't talk about it with Killian. Maybe he watches ESPN's mock drafts, because some of his friends send it to him, I think about one guy particularly. But appart from ESPN, he doesn't see it.
ALEX : Alright. All good for you Ben ?
BEN : Number 1
ALEX : Yann, thanks a lot for enlightening us and the listeners and viewers
YANN : Thank you, I'm a big fan of Envergure, the podcasts are great, it feels really nice to have a french basketball podcast where people don't talk nonsense about basketball (Ben laughs). It really is interesting, long live Envergure, keep up the good work !
ALEX : Thank you, all the best to Killian for the draft, we will obviously talk about him again in future podcasts. See you soon everybody, to analyse 2020 prospects game before the draft which will happen October 16th. Ciao everybody.