With all the big money contracts around the NBA these days, there appears to be just as many stories of players “fumbling the bag,” and Knicks center Nerlens Noel now considers himself a casualty of bad advice from well-known sports agent Rich Paul and Klutch Sports. As reported by SportsAgentBlog, the Univ. of Kentucky alum has filed a lawsuit against Paul and his firm for a breach of fiduciary duty, and Noel looks to recover $58 million in lost wages due to Paul’s “malice, fraud, and conscious indifference.”
Per the complaint, Noel was originally represented by Catalyst Sports CEO Happy Walters, with whom Noel signed as a rookie since 2013. At a Los Angles birthday party for 76ers guard Ben Simmons in 2017, Paul allegedly informed Noel he “was a 100 million man” and would offer to represent him as long as he dropped Walters.
At the time, the big man was playing for the Dallas Mavericks on a 1-year/$4.3 million contract and in talks to re-up for a 4-year/$70 million deal. Still, he got rid of Walters and took up with Paul instead, who reportedly secured Noel a 1-year/$4.1 million qualifying offer. The purported understanding was Noel would enter free agency at the end of the 2017-2018 season and then shop around for a max contract; Paul earned 4% commission on the new 1-year contract ($164,000).
However, that was when things started to fall apart. Noel suffered a torn ligament in his thumb and had to have surgery for it. The injury forced him to sit out over half the games that season, and, according to the suit, Paul distanced himself from Noel.
“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,” says the paperwork. “Indeed, as the 2018 NBA free agent season began, no real offers or deals were presented to Noel on the first day of free agency.”
Since there were no suitors and with free agency coming to a close, Noel ended up negotiating a 2-year/$3.75 million league-minimum deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. And although Noel says Paul had nothing to do with the new arrangement, the Klutch Sports CEO still received a 2% commission for it per their existing contract ($75,000).
The last straw was when Noel says he learned that other organizations were actually eager for his services, but it was Paul who chose not to respond. The Houston Rockets, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Clippers are named as teams who wanted to speak with the big man.
Reportedly, Leon Rose (who was then president of the New York Knicks) made contact and offered Noel a 1-year/$5 million contract, which Noel accepted. However, after his first season with the Knicks, Noel officially ended his relationship with Klutch and signed with George Langberg as his agent when he received a 3-year/$32 million deal from the Knickerbockers.
Noel wants to be compensated for missing out on an estimated $58 million, based on what he believes is Paul’s deception, willful neglect, and refusal to look out for his former client’s interests.