"It's a business. You can be here one day and gone the next."
That's what Landry Fields shared with me last week, describing his motivation to prepare for this upcoming season as if there won't be a lockout. But as it turns out, that's been Fields' motivation all along, including off the court, ever since he was drafted by the Knicks in the second round last summer.
Not only did Fields realize he wasn't going to make millions in his first year like a first-round pick, he knew there was a threat of a work stoppage the following year. Fields wanted to be prepared financially, so a week after the Knicks called his name he enlisted the services of a prominent financial adviser, Mark Doman of True Capital Management, who represents approximately 50 NBA, NFL and MLB players.
After Fields' parents, Steve and Janice, and his agent, Chris Emens, had several conversations with Doman, he was officially on board. About 10 months ago, they started working together even before Fields moved to New York. The first question Doman asked Fields was, "Do you want to spend your offseason here if you don’t have the Knicks facility to go to?" Doman not only took into consideration the potential lockout, but that Fields' contract was only for one year guaranteed with a team option for the second. Fields told Doman that he didn't want to work out at a local gym, such as 24 Hour Fitness; instead, he wanted to train back home in the Los Angeles area where he had prepared for the NBA draft.
That's when Doman went to work. He made sure that Fields wouldn't have anything tying him down financially in New York once the season ended in April. Doman helped Fields find an apartment rental in White Plains, N.Y. -- "Rookie season, you just want to be able to roll out of bed and go right to work," Doman says -- arrange his rental furniture and vehicle (Mercedes), and evaluate price comparisons for other purchases to make sure he got the best bang for his buck. After Fields' roughly one-year lease ended, Doman shipped Fields' car out to LA, where he's currently renting a place near where he works out. Now he has zero New York-related payments to worry about, even storage facility costs.
"The real key," Doman says, "was that, even as a rookie, with his first paycheck, we were already figuring out how much we needed to put away for the lockout. So from his first paycheck to now, we’ve been preparing him for this lockout. So he is more than ready to go if this thing goes for a sustained period of time."
Once the labor dispute comes closer to a resolution, Doman will go apartment hunting for Fields in New York City's Upper West Side neighborhood. In the meantime, Doman is stressing to Fields to take advantage of every off-court opportunity, especially given the possibility of a prolonged lockout during which he'll receive no income from the Knicks.
"As a popular New York athlete, he gets lots of opportunities to do appearances through his agent," Doman says, "so we’re emphasizing the importance of taking those opportunities. So far this summer, he's made about five appearances. Right now, if he’s able to do an appearance or two per month, it basically covers his living expenses for that respective month, so he doesn’t have to dip into his savings. Currently, he's a Nike athlete and there's also other large endorsement deals coming up for him, which will help preserve his proverbial nest egg during this work stoppage. The key right now is preserving his assets."
Fields talked about his involvement with Doman exclusively for ESPNNewYork.com.
Zwerling: Tell me about how you first met Mark and what attracted you to his services. What did you feel like you needed help with regarding money management?
Fields: I first met Mark last summer during the Vegas Summer League. At that time, I hadn't had a financial adviser yet. My buddy on the team, Andy Rautins, introduced me to Mark. It felt like a relationship; we just hit it off right away. He's a great guy. Everything he was telling me was stuff that appealed to me. I knew going into this next season I wasn't going to make Amare money or anything like that. I really wanted somebody who I could trust to help me with my whole plan regarding my money and how I would do stuff towards the lockout. It was a natural fit. We clicked on all levels.
JZ: Unfortunately when you look at the numbers, an estimated 60 percent of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. When did you first think about the financial advising side of pro sports? When did it first hit you that this might help you in your career?
LF: It actually came more so when I started speaking with Mark. I wanted to learn the business side of everything. I understood that the NBA is not going to last forever. I have to get into something after I'm done playing. He's kind of been bringing me along with different things, teaching me a few things. It's been great so far. What he does is pretty tedious. I've gotta say he's got a tough job because I know he spends hours upon hours in the office. But it's still an art that I want to learn.
JZ: During your rookie season, did you hear any horror stories that made you want to jump on financial advising more quickly?
LF: There are always stories about guys who are having financial difficulties, but I'm one of those people that look at other situations that can be bad and learn from that, rather than go through it myself and then learn. With Mark, it's been great. He's been on top with me about all financial obligations. I understand what I need to do. I understand the whole lockout as well. We might not be playing basketball for a while, so I need to save, especially with the kind of contract I had. It's not necessarily one where I can just sit here and blow money.
JZ: What have you learned the most as far as financial investments? What's important for you in setting up your future?
LF: It's not necessarily one thing. I want to understand what's going on with my money. I don't want to just say, "Here Mark, here's all my money, invest it, do what you want with it. Don't fill me in." It's not like that at all. When we talk -- when we have our monthly meetings, our annual meetings -- about what's been going on, I want to understand exactly what he's been doing with my money about where it's been pushed, how I can have better income coming in. With me, it's just more of I don't want to be in the dark about my money.
JZ: Have you encouraged your teammates or other pro athletes to consult with Mark? Have you spread the word that seeking out a financial adviser is critical?
LF: Yeah, definitely. I know with Mark, he's been great. I know he's helped me out a lot this year. He and my agent have worked side by side. I try to help out Mark a lot with the whole recruiting thing because I understand what he does, his services, that he provides for me is a lot more than what I'm paying for. Hopefully one day, I'll be able to compensate fully for all the stuff that he does for me because he does a whole lot of stuff behind the scenes that doesn't necessarily get all recognition that he deserves.
With the recruiting stuff, when I have a private moment with a player who I think could benefit from Mark's services, I'll find out about what kind of person he is, how he'll fit in with this whole group that Mark has. Because it's important for Mark that he works with players who are really committed to doing well for themselves off the court. If a player is not the right fit for him, he goes in a different direction. Essentially, Mark takes it very personally when a player doesn't succeed off the court. It's a more personal connection than any other service I’ve been a part of because he and the athlete will be working together for years beyond sports. Even the players themselves grow very close through their involvement with Mark.
Overall, I'll give him my honest opinion about guys. It's definitely a relationship that goes beyond business because in order for him to like to work with guys and to do those extra little things that aren't in his job description, I feel like you have to have that bond. It's something that he prides himself on and each guy he has from now on fits the mold.
For a more comprehensive look at Doman's work with pro athletes, click here.
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