Updated: Aug 11, 2022
Knicks center, Nerlens Noel, is suing Klutch Sports Group and ex agent Rich Paul. According to a report from Darren Heitner for Sports Agent Blog, “Noel is claiming $58 million in lost earnings and said Paul convinced him to pass on a four-year, $70 million deal he was negotiating with the Dallas Mavericks because he "was a 100 million man.” Rich Paul who was once considered just one of LeBron’s friends has now turned himself into one of the most popular agents in the NBA. He represents some of the best players in the league such as Lebron James, Anthony Davis, Trae Young, Draymond Green, and Ben Simmons.
Noel is purporting that he took Paul’s advice by not signing a 4 year, $70 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Instead, he signed a one year $4.1 qualifying offer with the hope to sign a max deal the following summer. Once Noel tore a ligament in his thumb he missed 42 games that season. According to the complaint, “Paul began to lose interest in Noel as a client.” “During the free agent season which began on July 1, 2018, and after Noel’s one-year contract with Dallas expired, neither Paul nor anyone at Klutch Sports presented any real proposals to Noel in terms of strategies or ideas on how Noel might secure a long-term contract or even a significant contract for the following season,” states the Complaint. Noel says that Paul had nothing to do with him going to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was recruited by Russell Westbrook and Paul George. He ended up signing a 2 year, $3.75 million league minimum deal.
Noel also learned from ex 76er’s coach, Brett Brown that they were trying to get in touch with Paul and he never returned their call. This purportedly happened with other teams as well. When Noel wanted to change agencies persuaded to stay based on a 3 year deal worth $7-10 million a year with Oklahoma City. This ultimately did not happen and he ended up signing a 1 year, $5 million deal with the Knicks. Noel finally terminated his relationship with Paul and Klutch Sports in December 2020 and says that the final straw was Noel learning that Paul “had a history of mismanaging and ignoring other clients and costing them significant money.” Now after his first season with the New York Knicks he signed a 3 year, $32 million deal. Noel’s representation says, “Paul breached his fiduciary duty by inducing Noel to terminate his representation agreement with Walters and then by failing to do any meaningful work on Noel’s behalf.”
This could end up being a challenging case. No one can tell the future and injuries are part of the game. When Paul gave Noel the advice to wait a year he did not know he would get hurt and miss so many games. Not signing a contract is always a gamble no matter what sport it is. There is always the benefit of making more money or the risk of losing everything. A promise is not legally binding, so if Paul did everything in his power to help Noel then he most likely does not have a case.
On the other hand, if Paul was not doing his job and taking calls from teams on Noel’s behalf then a case is possible. This could constitute a breach in contract depending on what is stated. Also, by not answering calls which could have helped Noel’s career Paul was negligent. Paul’s duty was to help Noel to the best of his ability which if proved not to be true he would breach his duty of care to Noel. This should be interesting how this will play out in the upcoming months.