Rich Paul

And-Ones: I. Thomas, Trade Candidates, Lin, Noel, Draft

Team USA only won one of two games in the first round of qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup this week in Mexico, but veteran guard Isaiah Thomas played against both Cuba and Mexico, leading the U.S. with 42 total points and 13 assists in 49 minutes across the two contests.

After putting up 21 points in Team USA’s win over Cuba on Sunday, Thomas reiterated his desire to get back onto an NBA roster, while leaving the door open to the possibility of playing in an international league.

The ultimate goal is to get back in the NBA,” he said, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). “I just love playing the game of basketball. So, obviously, at some point, if the NBA isn’t an option I’ve got to look at options overseas. … I love competing and I love playing.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In the latest HoopsHype Podcast, Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan identified some potential trade candidates among the group of the players who will become eligible to be dealt on December 15 or January 15. Nuggets wing Will Barton, Pelicans swingman Josh Hart, Rockets center Daniel Theis, and a few Pistons veterans are among the players Scotto and Gozlan discussed.
  • Former NBA point guard Jeremy Lin has returned to the Beijing Ducks for another season, as EuroHoops relays. Lin, who has been out of the NBA since winning a title with Toronto in 2019, said in a statement that “playing basketball in China feels at home.”
  • After filing suit against his former agent Rich Paul, Knicks center Nerlens Noel now finds himself at odds with the players’ union. As Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic explains, the NBPA’s standard player agent contract states that disputes should be settled through arbitration, which Noel has circumvented by taking his issue with Paul to court.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link) updated their top-100 big board for the 2022 NBA draft on Tuesday and shared some insights on several college prospects. Auburn’s Jabari Smith made a significant impression on Schmitz, who said he was “blown away” by what he saw from the 18-year-old and considers him a potential dark horse to be next year’s No. 1 pick.

Latest On Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons feels like the Sixers are trying to force his return to the court no matter how he feels mentally, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Simmons met with the team’s therapist for the first time on Monday, after the team resumed fining him last week. He was previously unwilling to discuss his mental health with any team doctors.

Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, says the team’s actions have worsened his client’s mental health.

I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that’s very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben,” Paul said. “Either you help Ben, or come out and say he’s lying. Which one is it?

A Sixers official told Charania that the team was “absolutely not” trying to force Simmons to play, nor are they claiming that he’s lying. The team’s stance is that Simmons should participate in all Sixers activities unless the team’s therapist or Simmons’ personal specialists report that he is incapable of playing or practicing.

The official emphasized that, as of this evening, the Sixers had not been presented with information that would prevent Simmons from fully participating with the team.

Charania relays that the Sixers sent Simmons a schedule Thursday that included tonight’s game against the Raptors, which the Sixers lost 115-109. Simmons did not play in the game. The team has fined him each time this has occurred previously, so another fine could be imminent.

Paul says Simmons is open to playing for the Sixers again, but he’s not mentally ready to return to the court yet.

In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health,” Paul said. “As an agent, I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today’s world.

This is no longer about a trade. This is about finding a place where we can help Ben get back to his mental strength and get back on the floor. I want him on the floor playing the game that he loves. I want Ben on the floor whether that’s in a 76ers uniform or any other uniform, that’s not up to me, but I want him in a state where he can resume play. We want to cooperate and want to work him back on the floor.”

Team officials say they’re happy to hear that Simmons is open to playing for the Sixers again, per Charania. They welcome his return to the lineup. They also insist that they’ve shown good faith through the entire process, including offering any assistance Simmons has needed.

Simmons will continue meeting with the team’s therapist and has given permission for the therapist to confidentially discuss his treatment with Simmons’ own personal specialists.

Paul says he holds no hard feelings with Sixers ownership, management, or the city of Philadelphia, he just wants what’s best for his client.

I don’t think the 76ers are a bad organization. Josh Harris and David Blitzer are great governors, they’ve done a great job with the organization. I have respect for (president of basketball operations) Daryl Morey,” Paul said. “Ben has a mental issue, let’s support him. I’m happy he got to a place where he realized and accepted help. I understand it’s a business, but even in business, you need humanity.

I have a great level of respect and love for the city of Philadelphia, as someone who loves the game, but this isn’t about that. This is about Ben getting back to a place mentally where he can be back on the floor — and only Ben can tell us when that is. We have to allow him to do that.”

Tyrese Maxey Denies That Reps Want Him Out Of Philadelphia

Shortly after word first surfaced in August that Ben Simmons intended to hold out this fall in an effort to force the Sixers to trade him, one report indicated that fellow guard Tyrese Maxey might be included in any Simmons trade. The thinking, according to that report, was that agent Rich Paul – who represents both Simmons and Maxey – preferred to have both his clients out of Philadelphia.

However, asked at Media Day on Monday about that rumor, Maxey denied it, telling the media that he and Paul were “sitting there laughing at it.” Maxey added that he has no desire to leave Philadelphia (Twitter link via Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer).

I don’t know where that came from,” he said (Twitter link via Derek Bodner of The Athletic). “… I love being here and I love the city. I can’t wait to get started.”

As we noted when we relayed that August report on Maxey, the idea that Paul had the desire and the leverage to get the 20-year-old included in a Simmons deal always seemed a little far-fetched. Maxey is entering just the second season of his four-year rookie contract and showed plenty of promise as a rookie, reducing the likelihood that the 76ers would be strong-armed into moving him.

If Simmons continues to hold out and the Sixers don’t find a trade in the short-term future, Maxey figures to take on a significantly increased role to start the 2021/22 season. Head coach Doc Rivers strongly hinted earlier today that Maxey would become Philadelphia’s starting point guard as long as Simmons remains AWOL.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics Lineup, Clark, Noel, Sixers

With Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams and Marcus Smart seemingly locked into starting spots for the Celtics, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston explores the possibilities for the fifth starter. The most likely candidates are Aaron Nesmith, Josh Richardson, Al Horford and Dennis Schröder — Forsberg takes a closer look at what each player could bring to the starting unit.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Free agent Gary Clark worked out for the Celtics, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando tweets. Clark, a 6’6” forward, played 39 games in the league last season, including 35 with the Magic. He also played two games apiece for Denver and Philadelphia.
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel has filed an amended complaint against super-agent Rich Paul, which includes an October 2017 letter from the legal counsel for Noel’s prior agent, Happy Walters, stating that the decision to reject the Mavericks’ $70MM offer “placed Noel at serious professional and financial risk,” Darren Heitner of SportsAgentBlog tweets. Noel sued Paul and Klutch Sports last month, claiming that he fired Walters in favor of Paul because Paul told him he could get a max contract. Paul also allegedly told Noel to turn down Dallas’ extension offer.
  • The Sixers have signed a deal with to be their new jersey patch partner, according to a team press release. According to Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the multiyear deal is worth eight figures annually and is among the top five most lucrative jersey ad deals in the league.

Zach LaVine To Switch Agents Entering Contract Year

Bulls star Zach LaVine has made the decision to leave agencies BDA Sports and Innovate Sports, as first reported by K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

LaVine is expected to sign with Rich Paul‘s Klutch Sports Group, which represents players such as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Ben Simmons and John Wall. Paul also represents Lonzo Ball, who joined the Bulls via a sign-and-trade agreement earlier this month.

LaVine had been co-represented by Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian. The 26-year-old is entering the final season of a four-year, $78MM deal signed with Chicago in 2018, which means he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2021/22 campaign.

LaVine is coming off the first All-Star season of his career, averaging 27.4 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He also shot a career-high 51% from the floor and 42% from deep during those contests.

Nerlens Noel Sues Rich Paul, Klutch Sports

Knicks center Nerlens Noel has filed a lawsuit against agent Rich Paul and the Klutch Sports agency, reports Darren Heitner of

The suit, which was filed in Dallas, Texas, claims that in a birthday party for the Klutch-represented Ben Simmons in 2017, Paul convinced Noel that he was a “$100MM man,” and that if Noel fired then-agent Happy Walters and signed with him, Paul would get him a max contract. Noel subsequently left Walters and signed with Paul.

As part of the same pitch, Paul allegedly told Noel to cut off negotiations with the Mavericks, who had offered Noel a four-year, $70MM extension, and instead sign his one-year, $4.1MM qualifying offer. After a season plagued by injury, however, his free agency proved unsuccessful, as he claims that no one from Klutch presented any ideas for how to pursue long-term contracts, and none were forthcoming on the market, leading him to sign a two-year, $3.75MM contract with the Thunder, which Noel claims was largely orchestrated by Thunder stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George, rather than by Rich Paul.

Finally, the lawsuit states that Noel learned that multiple teams, including the Sixers, Clippers, and Rockets informed him that they attempted to get in touch with Paul about offering Noel a contract, but were unable to make contact.

Noel left Klutch Sports in December of 2020, and is suing Paul and the agency for the loss of approximately $58MM stemming from the initial declined extension with Dallas.

Trail Blazers Sign Ben McLemore

AUGUST 5: The team has officially signed McLemore, according to a team press release. It’s a one-year, minimum-salary deal.

AUGUST 2: The Trail Blazers will sign free agent shooting guard Ben McLemore, his agent Rich Paul has informed Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (via Twitter).

The athletic swingman flashed significant promise during his first few seasons with the Kings, who selected him with the seventh pick in the 2013 draft out of Kansas. He next proved himself to be a valuable role player while with the Grizzlies, and then suited up for an encore 2018/19 Sacramento season.

Armed with quickness and a reliable three-point shot, McLemore served as a helpful wing contributor on the Rockets’ most recent playoff team, operating as a role player to support All-Star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook, during the 2019/20 season.

After the Rockets began a midseason 2020/21 fire sale, they sent McLemore to the Lakers. McLemore averaged 8.0 PPG and 1.6 RPG in 21 contests for Los Angeles, connecting on 36.8% of his 5.4 three-point attempts a night. He should prove a valuable floor-spacing role player on the perimeter for Portland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trey Lyles Signs Two-Year Deal With Pistons

AUGUST 6: Lyles’ deal is now official, according to’s transactions log.

AUGUST 2: Free agent forward Trey Lyles has reached a two-year agreement with the Pistons worth approximately $5MM, agent Rich Paul told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

A two-year, minimum-salary deal for Lyles would work out to about $4.44MM, so it sounds like he may get something a little higher than the minimum.

Lyles has spent the last two seasons with the Spurs. He also had two-year stints in Utah and Denver. Lyles saw his playing time diminish last season, as he appeared in just 23 games. His representatives were eager to find a new home for their client, who was looking for a fresh start. He started 53 of 63 games in his first year with San Antonio.

Lyles has averaged 7.3 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 15.6 MPG through 374 career games. He’s a 34.1% 3-point shooter.

He’ll provide insurance at the power forward spot behind Jerami Grant and Sekou Doumbouya.

And-Ones: Jokubaitis, Banton, LeBron, R. Paul

Point guard Rokas Jokubaitis has declared for this year’s draft, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets. Jokubaitis is currently ranked No. 42 on ESPN’s Best Available list. Playing for Žalgiris Kaunas of the Lithuanian Basketball League and the EuroLeague, the 20-year-old averaged 7.0 PPG and 2.5 APG in 20.9 MPG in 31 games this season.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Nebraska’s Dalano Banton has declared for the draft, according to his Twitter feed. The sophomore swingman averaged 9.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 3.9 APG last season. Banton played a season at Western Kentucky.
  • LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul, explained in a feature written by the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner why his top client didn’t skip this year’s All-Star Game after expressing dismay about playing the game during the pandemic. “You have to value what drives our business,” Paul said. “All-Star weekend is a very important part of our business. To not have the All-Star Game, or not have all-stars playing in the All-Star Game, I think that would be a form of doing bad business. You don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to always feel up to doing something.”
  • In the same piece, a current NBA general manager said James’ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami, which ushered in an era of player empowerment, was the “worst thing” to happen to not only the NBA but sports in general. “Player empowerment is a catchall for the fact that the league has done a terrible job of empowering teams,” he said. “The players have all of the leverage in every situation. I think it’s the worst thing that ever happened to professional sports on all levels.” 

Texas Notes: Walker, Austin Spurs, Assistant Coaches

Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV has new representation. Rich Paul and Lucas Newton of Klutch Sports are Walker’s new agents, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN (Twitter link). Klutch also represents Walker’s teammates Dejounte Murray and Trey Lyles.

Walker remains on his rookie contract with the Spurs. He will become eligible for a rookie scale extension in 2021 and – if he doesn’t sign a new deal early – would reach restricted free agency in 2022.

There’s more from the Lone Star State:

  • The Spurs‘ G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, have promoted assistant Matt Nielsen to head coach, and named former assistant general manager Tyler Self the new GM, according to a team press release.
  • The Rockets continue to remake their personnel beyond the hardwood. New head coach Stephen Silas has added Magic player development coach Rick Higgins, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link), and former Sydney Kings head coach Will Weaver, per Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link).
  • Per a team press release, the Spurs have promoted Mitch Johnson to fill Tim Duncan‘s role on Gregg Popovich‘s bench and have also named Darius Songalia an assistant coach. Duncan, a Hall of Fame power forward and five-time champion with the club, will return to his more informal player development duties with the team for 2020/21.