Nerlens Noel turned down a significant contract offer a few years ago, and now he’s suing former agent Rich Paul for some significant lost earnings.
Rich Paul and is firm Klutch Sports has some high-profile clients he has served well (LeBron James, Ben Simmons, etc). But, per Darren Heitner of Sports Agent Blog, New York Knick center Nerlens Noel filed a lawsuit against Paul and Klutch Sports in Dallas, Texas on Tuesday, citing $58 million in lost earnings.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Noel’s lawsuit is a reaction to Paul filing a grievance with the NBPA seeking $200,000 in unpaid commission on his previous one-year contract with the Knicks.
Noel is claiming breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and negligence on Paul’s part. The actual lawsuit doesn’t cite a specific amount of damages he’s seeking, beyond citing $58 million in earnings he feels he lost upon being represented by Paul from 2017-2020.
The background on Nerlens Noel and Rich Paul
In the summer of 2017 Noel, then represented by Happy Walters as he had been since being drafted in 2013, says he met Paul at Simmons’ birthday party. Paul allegedly (per the Complaint) told Noel he was “a $100 million man” and Paul could get him a max contract if he terminated his relationship with Walters. Noel indeed switched representation.
Noel’s lawsuit goes further, alleging Paul told him to turn down a four-year, $70 million offer from the Dallas Mavericks at the start of free agency in July 2017. Noel had spent part of the previous season with the Mavericks after they acquired him from the 76ers, and he was a restricted free agent. Per the lawsuit, Paul told Noel to turn down the offer in order to be an unresrtricted free agent in 2018. Reports at the time back up that offer being made, and that Noel turned it down. He instead took a one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer. A thumb injury cost Noel 42 games durning the 2017-18 season, at which point he suggests Paul lost interest in him as a client.
Noel goes on say Paul had nothing to do with the two-year, $3.75 million league minimim deal he signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018–instead pointing to Russell Westbrook and Paul George recruiting him. More broadly, Noel alleges Paul did not make an effort on his behalf and did not respond to teams trying to make contact to sign him in 2018, 2019 or 2020 free agency.
Noel declined the player option on his original deal with the Thunder, and absent other opportunities he went back to them on a one-year deal for 2019-20. He then signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Knicks last offseason. Noel finally terminated his relationship with Paul and Klutch in December of 2020.
Noel found a home with the Knicks last season, finishing third in the league in blocks per game (2.2). In early August, he signed a three-year deal worth nearly $32 million total ($27.7 million guaranteed) to come back to New York.
Noel simply took bad advice in turning down that four-year, $70 million offer from Dallas, followed by an ill-timed injury. He coincidentally (or not) would have completed that deal last season.
Instead, Noel made just shy of $13 million over that span. So $58 million in lost wages is not a number pulled out of thin air, it’s almost exactly what he didn’t collect over the last four years with little research needed to know it. The question of Paul’s liability for that lost money is now in the hands of the legal process.