New York Knicks center Nerlens Noel is suing former agent Rich Paul for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and negligence, claiming that Paul is responsible for $58 million in lost wages. Noel was initially represented by Happy Walters but signed with Paul in 2017 after meeting him at Ben Simmons‘ birthday party. At that point, Noel was a restricted free agent and alleges that his then-employer, the Dallas Mavericks, offered him a four-year, $70 million contract (which Walters said publicly at the time was real), but that Paul advised him to reject the offer in favor of a one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer that would have made him an unrestricted free agent the following offseason. At that point, Noel theoretically could have found a bigger offer on the open market.
Things didn’t go as planned from there, though, as Noel missed 42 games in the following season after tearing a ligament in his thumb. He ultimately had to play the next two seasons for the minimum salary before getting a one-year, $5 million deal from the New York Knicks. He re-signed with the Knicks for a reported three-year, $32 million deal, but the final season comes with a team option.
Noel parted with Paul and Klutch Sports in 2020 and is claiming that Paul not only advised him against taking the $70 million offer but that his representation did not make him a priority during subsequent free agent periods. He alleges that the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers tried to contact Paul during 2020 free agency, but that he was not taking or returning those calls.
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“Noel’s frustrations with Paul came to a tilt in December 2020 when he learned that Paul had a history of mismanaging and ignoring other clients and costing them significant money,” the lawsuit states. “The belief was that Paul and Klutch Sports were only focused on serving their ‘marquee’ clients and did not have the capacity to provide competent service to other clients such as Noel, or players like Norris Cole or Shabazz Muhammad, as additional examples.”
Paul represents a number of the NBA‘s biggest stars, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Ben Simmons and Trae Young. Noel is now represented by George Langberg. He decided to take legal action against Paul after Paul filed a grievance with the NBPA over $200,000 in unpaid commissions, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.