New York Knicks center Nerlens Noel filed a lawsuit against former agent Rich Paul and his firm, Klutch Sports, on Monday, claiming he lost $58 million in potential salary while he was represented by Paul from 2017 to 2020.
Noel took the action after Klutch recently filed a grievance with the National Basketball Players Association, claiming Noel hadn’t paid $200,000 in commission on his previous one-year contract with the Knicks, multiple sources told ESPN.
Noel claims breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and negligence. The lawsuit doesn’t cite a specific amount of damages but asks for actual and punitive relief.
Paul declined to comment.
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The lawsuit, which was filed in Dallas County, Texas, centers around a decision made in July 2017 when Noel was a restricted free agent of the Dallas Mavericks. Noel averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22 games with the Mavericks after he was traded there midway through the previous season from the Philadelphia 76ers.
At the start of free agency in 2017, Noel was represented by agent Happy Walters. Noel claims in the lawsuit he was offered a four-year, $70 million deal by the Mavericks, a number that was reported by several news outlets that summer. During the free-agency process, Noel said he fired Walters and hired Paul after they met at Ben Simmons’ birthday party in Los Angeles.
Paul represents numerous NBA All-Stars, including Simmons and LeBron James.
In the lawsuit, Noel said Paul advised him to pass on the $70 million offer and accept a one-year deal so he could be an unrestricted free agent the following year when Paul said he could get Noel a more lucrative contract. Noel eventually did turn down the deal and signed his one-year qualifying offer of $4.1 million.
The following season, Noel broke his thumb and missed 42 games as his numbers dropped. He didn’t re-sign with Dallas and played the next two seasons for the Oklahoma City Thunder, making the league minimum, $3.7 million combined, as a backup. He then played last season for the Knicks, making $5 million. Noel remained with Paul for all four contracts.
Noel claims in the lawsuit that Klutch didn’t make him a priority when he was a free agent, wasn’t responsive to teams looking to sign him as a free agent and failed to execute a multiyear deal with the Thunder that he was told was in the works. Noel separated with Paul last season after signing with the Knicks.
After starting 41 games for the Knicks and playing strong defense, finishing third in the NBA averaging 2.2 blocks per game, Noel signed a three-year deal with the Knicks this month that guarantees him $27.7 million with another $4.1 million in possible incentives. The deal was negotiated by agent George Langberg.
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