NBA Rumor: Nerlens Noel Lawsuit

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The complaint claims that the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers had interest in signing Noel as a free agent in recent offseasons. But Noel, allegedly, was unaware of the interest because Paul didn’t return calls from those teams. The suit alleges that former Sixers coach Brett Brown informed Noel of Philadelphia’s interest. If Brown agrees to provide his version of events on the record, it could have a significant impact on the case.

The National Basketball Players Association does not prohibit certified agents from contacting other certified agents’ clients, a noted contrast to the NBA’s tampering rules, prohibiting team executives from contacting rival teams’ talent. That stance has frustrated many agents for years. And it’s not just Paul. Sources told Bleacher Report that Victor Oladipo was influenced to leave longtime representative Aaron Turner of Versus Management for Excel Sports just before free agency this summer. Excel gave Oladipo the same sales pitch: a new agent can deliver more money than the previous one. In this case, like Noel’s, they didn’t deliver. Back in 2017, Robert Covington left his agent Chris Patrick (who helped land the two-way forward his first legitimate NBA stop in Philadelphia) for behemoth CAA Sports ahead of signing a four-year, $62 million deal.

The majority of league sources contacted by B/R do expect the union to settle some type of agreement between these two parties, being that a legitimate legal battle benefits neither Klutch nor Noel. For Noel to win $58 million in alleged lost salary, he would seemingly face a daunting uphill battle in a court of law. “The truth is Nerlens is not innocent in this,” another agent said. “If you’re silly enough to turn down that kind of money, that’s not on Rich.”

Noel, a 27-year-old center, alleges Paul then proceeded to provide little assistance in securing contracts and roster spots the following three seasons. “The minute you hit a minimum, it’s very hard to go back,” one veteran player representative said. That accept-the-qualifying-offer, bet-on-yourself tactic—in addition to client-poaching from other agents—has drawn ire from Paul’s rivals in the agency world. To be fair, they are often guilty of the same activities; a significant portion of income for larger agencies is generated by poaching clients before a player’s next lucrative deal.

Nerlens Noel files lawsuit against Rich Paul

Nerlens Noel has filed a massive lawsuit against Klutch Sports agent Rich Paul, as broken by Darren Heitner of Sports Agent Blog. According to the article, Noel alleges that Paul misled and neglected him when he was a client of Klutch Sports. Before even developing an official partnership, Paul told Noel in 2017 free agency that he “was a 100 million dollar man,” which led to Noel not only leaving then-agent Happy Walters, but also turning down a 4-year, $70 million offer from the Dallas Mavericks to accept a qualifying offer. When Noel battled injuries the following season, his value cratered. But according to the accusations, Paul never tried to redeem his 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 allegations. “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.”

Heitner also writes, “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.’ He believed that Paul and Klutch Sports were only focused on serving their marquee clients, and did not have the capacity to serve Noel as well as players such as Norris Cole or Shabazz Muhammad.”
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