Rich Paul

And-Ones: Klutch, T. Young, Blazers, Jazz

Veteran NBA agent Omar Wilkes has left Octagon Sports and will become the head of basketball at Klutch Sports, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that the move will create a path for Rich Paul to “expand his scope” as the company’s CEO. Although Paul will continue to work with Klutch’s basketball clients, the hiring of Wilkes will allow him to commit more time to the agency’s newer MLB and NFL divisions, Woj adds.

Wilkes’ most noteworthy client at Octagon, rising Hawks star Trae Young, has cut ties with the agency and appears likely to follow Wilkes to Klutch, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Chris Kirschner of The Athletic cautions that CAA and Roc Nation have reached out as well, but says Young figures to end up with Klutch, since he and Wilkes are “incredibly close” (Twitter links).

Cam Reddish, OG Anunoby, and draft prospect Anthony Edwards were among Wilkes’ other clients at Octagon. It’s unclear whether they’ll remain at Octagon or stick with Wilkes as he makes the move to Klutch.

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

  • A pair of sports representation agencies – Tandem and You First – have merged, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski relays (via Twitter). Tandem president Jim Tanner will be the president of basketball for the merged firm, which will rebrand with a new name, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Between them, Tandem and You First represent a number of notable NBA players, including Ja Morant, Kristaps Porzingis, and Serge Ibaka.
  • The coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on the Trail Blazers‘ operations, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, who reports that the team laid off about 40 employees – 15% of its workforce – and reduced salaries for anyone in a director role. The cuts affected multiple departments and also impacted the team’s arena management company, Rip City Management, per Freeman.
  • In an interesting piece for The Athletic, Seth Partnow makes a case against the 82-game season, suggesting that the NBA has an opportunity to experiment in 2020/21, with the season tentatively scheduled to start at least a month or two later than usual.
  • The Salt Lake City Stars took home a pair of NBA G League end-of-season awards, with Martin Schiller earning Coach of the Year honors and VP of basketball operations Bart Taylor named Basketball Executive of the Year. The Jazz‘ NBAGL affiliate finished the 2019/20 season with a 30-12 record, giving the Stars a comfortable hold on the No. 1 seed in the West.

And-Ones: Anthony, Thibodeau, R. Paul, No. 1 Picks

Former NBA big man Joel Anthony has been hired by the Hamilton Honey Badgers, a Canadian team, as a player consultant, the club announced in a press release. Anthony, a Canadian himself, appeared in nearly 500 regular season NBA games from 2008-17, winning a pair of titles with Miami.

“Joel Anthony brings extensive playing experience at the highest level of basketball that will help in the development of our players this season,” Honey Badgers general manager Jermaine Anderson said in a statement. “… He has learned the game under the guidance of coaches such as Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Brad Stevens, and Stan Van Gundy. He has a lot to offer our players, coaches, and staff.”

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

  • Appearing on The Woj Pod this week with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, veteran NBA head coach Tom Thibodeau talked about what he has learned since being let go by the Timberwolves, addressing load management, the increased size of coaching staffs, and more. Ian Begley of SNY.tv shares a few of highlights from Thibodeau, who is expected to be a candidate for the Knicks‘ job and others later this year.
  • With Klutch Sports branching out beyond basketball to represent football and baseball stars as well, agent Rich Paul spoke to Joe Vardon of The Athletic about that transition. The conversation also touched on several other topics, including whether or not Paul would have advised Darius Bazley to play in the G League if the NBAGL’s professional path had looked two years ago like it does now.
  • With his usual NBA power rankings column on hiatus, Zach Harper of The Athletic tries his hand at ranking all 70 first overall picks in NBA history, from the best (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and LeBron James) to the worst (LaRue Martin, Gene Melchiorre, and Anthony Bennett).

Eastern Conference Notes: Thompson, Sixers, Horford, Knicks

Kevin Love doesn’t want to see long-time teammate Tristan Thompson get traded, but he understands it might be the best move for both him and the organization, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The Cavaliers are reportedly seeking a first-round pick in return for Thompson, who will be a free agent this summer. If Cleveland can’t find an acceptable deal, management still has interest in re-signing the 28-year-old center or possibly working out a sign-and-trade.

“That’s my brother, man,” Love said. “I would always go to war with him. I would run through a wall for him. He’s the best. Just the type of guy he is, he’s a lifelong friend of mine, so it would be tough to see him go. I would like to have him around selfishly, but if there’s a better situation out there for him, going to make him happier, have a chance to win a championship, then so be it. I only know Tristan Thompson as a Cavalier and I like it that way.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference as the trade deadline draws nearer:

  • Trey Burke, Kyle O’Quinn and Jonah Bolden were all absent from the Sixers‘ shootaround this morning, tweets Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Philadelphia has to trim two players from its roster by 3pm Eastern to complete a trade that will bring Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III from the Warriors in exchange for three second-round draft picks.
  • Al Horford hinted at trouble in the Sixers‘ locker room in comments after Wednesday’s practice, relays Jon Johnson of KYW Radio (Twitter link). “There’s some stuff going on in our locker room,” Horford said, “and we’ll keep that internal.”
  • A pair of Knicks youngsters have signed with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports for representation. Ian Begley of SNY.tv reports (via Twitter) that Mitchell Robinson is one of Paul’s newest clients, while Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) says Allonzo Trier has joined Klutch Sports too.

Lakers Notes: Caruso, Rondo, KCP, McGee

Lakers guard Alex Caruso received assurances from the new coaching staff that he’d have a legitimate chance to make the rotation before he agreed to re-sign, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register reports.

Caruso’s conversation with coach Frank Vogel convinced him to ink a two-year, $5.5MM deal in July, though Caruso did not receive a bigger offer in the early stages of free agency.

“I knew there was opportunity,” Caruso said. “Coach Vogel called me when I was pretty close to making a decision and said there’s opportunity for minutes and that’s all I’ve ever needed in my career.”

Vogel has delivered on that pledge. Caruso has played in 27 of 29 games, averaging 5.4 PPG in 20.4 MPG.

Goon provided a number of other insights regarding the players who re-signed with the Lakers in free agency:

  • Rajon Rondo knew when he agreed to a two-year, $5.26MM contract with a player option that he’d have a reduced role. Rondo has appeared in 17 games, averaging 7.7 PPG and 5.6 APG in 21.36 MPG. “Very transparent,” the veteran point guard said of the front office’s plans for him. “Told me my role coming in, what they expected from me and how I could be a part of this run we’re trying to make.”
  • Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said it wasn’t a slam dunk he’d return, even though agent Rich Paul also represents the Lakers superstars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis“I wanted to be back, but with my agent, went through the process of free agency,” he said. “Pros and cons, where I want to be. It was all about what I wanted, and we just took it from there.” Caldwell-Pope signed an incentive-laden two-year, $19MM deal with a player option.
  • Center JaVale McGee was intent on returning, especially when he learned that Davis preferred to play power forward, opening a starting spot for him. McGee took a two-year, $8.2MM deal with a player option. He’s averaging 7.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG in 27 starts. “I felt like this is the best opportunity for me to possibly start and win the championship out of any other team,” he said. “I took it.”

Heat Notes: Waiters, Paul, Olynyk

Dion Waiters is in the midst of a 10-game suspension for the Heat and there have been conflicting reports on what the team wants to do with the shooting guard once he returns from his time away. Some writers have speculated that Waiters has played his last game with the club while Shams Charania indicated that the team is going to welcome him back.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears that the door is open for a return, but it would take a lot for Waiters to earn the trust of the franchise again. Waiters would need to do “absolutely everything right” for Miami to consider playing him again, Jackson writes, adding the caveat that an injury in the team’s backcourt may make the club soften its stance.

The Heat have yet to come to a consensus within the organization on how they are going to operate when Waiters does return. A buyout is possible but unlikely; an outright release is even more unlikely given Miami’s hard cap issues; a trade may take some hard selling to another NBA club.

Waiters’ suspension will end after the team’s Nov. 29 game vs. the Warriors. Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Agent Rich Paul could be the X-factor in what happens with Waiters’ future. Paul represents the shooting guard, as Jackson adds in the same piece, and it’s possible that the agent will use his influence to challenge an unfavorable decision the Heat make.
  • Coach Erik Spoelstra is thrilled with the team’s big man rotation, particularly Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard, which give the Heat two bigs who can stretch the floor.“You want to be able to exploit opponent defenses, and we have two seven-footers who can stretch the floor,” Spoelstra said (via Jackson in the same piece). “It opens up the floor to attackers and for the pick-and-roll game. They each have a different way of getting to their strengths. Meyers is such a great screener, gets guys open. KO has some playmaking ability as well that can put unique pressure on a defense.”
  • Kendrick Nunn has been getting feedback from Dwyane Wade on his game and the rookie is soaking up the information, as Jackson relays.“He told me he’s happy for me, to continue to develop and learn, be a sponge, just learn as much as I can,” Nunn said. “It was definitely meaningful coming from him, someone who has been in this organization and left their legacy here and created a culture, has been part of a culture and championship for years. It was definitely big coming from him. I’ve been watching him since I can remember. Years going back, he was one of my favorite players for sure.”

Marcus, Markieff Morris Sign With Roc Nation Sports

Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris have new representation, according a tweet from Roc Nation Sports welcoming both players to the agency.

The Morris twins were previously represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, but Paul and Marcus parted ways this summer after Marcus reneged on a contract agreement with the Spurs and opted to sign with the Knicks instead. Paul reportedly urged Marcus not to back out of that tentative deal with San Antonio.

Markieff, who signed with the Pistons this summer, didn’t have as tumultuous a free agency experience as his brother, but it’s not surprising that he has elected to move on from Paul as well. The Morris twins have often operated as a unit throughout their NBA careers, having initially signed with Klutch Sports together during the summer of 2018.

Both brothers could be back on the free agent market next summer. Marcus’ $15MM deal with New York is just a one-year pact, so he’ll definitely become an unrestricted free agent. Markieff’s future is less certain, since his Pistons contract features a second-year player option worth $3.36MM. He could turn it down to reach the open market, or opt in and remain with Detroit.

Jusuf Nurkic Signing With Rich Paul, Klutch Sports

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is hiring new representation, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, who reports (via Twitter) that Nurkic will sign with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Nurkic was previously repped by Aylton Tesch of Dynasty Sports.

Nurkic is only in the second season of his current four-year contract, which expires after the 2021/22 season. However, he’ll become eligible for a contract extension on July 6, 2020, two years after he signed that deal. It’s not clear whether the big man will be seeking an extension immediately upon becoming eligible, but making his agent change now could help prepare him for those negotiations.

Despite the fact that Nurkic remains under contract for multiple seasons, it makes some sense that he’s making a change. The four-year, $48MM deal he signed as a restricted free agent in 2018 with Portland was widely considered a steal for the Blazers.

Before his 2018/19 season ended with a broken leg, Nurkic was making his contract look even more team-friendly by establishing new career highs in PPG (15.6), RPG (10.4), APG (3.2), and several other categories. That leg injury will sideline him for the start of the 2019/20 campaign, but he’s considered likely to return well before the playoffs if he doesn’t experience any setbacks.

Lakers Notes: AD Trade, LeBron, Pelinka, More

When David Griffin arrived in New Orleans as the Pelicans‘ new head of basketball operations, he was faced with a predicament related to Anthony Davis, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Sources confirm to McMenamin that there was some lingering resentment toward the Lakers within the Pelicans’ organization – all the way up to ownership – due to the way AD’s public trade request played out earlier in the year. However, Griffin also recognized that L.A. was the most logical trade partner for New Orleans.

“When I took over, there was some latent discontent, maybe with the way things had been handled,” Griffin said. “We just talked about the fact that, look, in all likelihood the best package is going to come from this team, because it’s the only team that AD’s willing to stay at.”

As McMenamin details, agent Rich Paul had signaled to the Celtics and other suitors that Davis wouldn’t re-sign with them in 2020, since the big man wanted to play in New York or Los Angeles.

“The last thing you want to do is put a GM in a situation where he trades away an asset and then the guy walks out the door,” Paul said. “Like, you can’t do business that way. So it’s not really a hard conversation to have. And I don’t think it stopped [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge from trying. It’s just that maybe he didn’t have the deal [he wanted]. He wasn’t willing to give up the young players, which I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t give them up either if the guy is not going to re-sign.”

The Pelicans’ big win on draft lottery night helped clear a path for the team to work something out with the Lakers for Davis, as Paul observed to McMenamin: “The fact that [the Pelicans] were going to get the first pick caused me to understand that it softened the blow of losing Anthony Davis because the organization could still have some momentum.”

McMenamin’s story at ESPN provides an in-depth look at several other aspects of the Lakers’ pursuit and acquisition of Davis, as well as the franchise’s adjustment to having him on the roster. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said that even on the day the Lakers and Pelicans reached a trade agreement, there were a couple times he was convinced a deal wouldn’t come together. But the front office persevered in part because they believed they owed it to LeBron James. “When a player of LeBron’s stature puts his trust in the organization,” Pelinka said, “I think there’s an implicit bilateral trust going back, saying: ‘We’re going to do everything we can to put you in a position to win more championships, because that’s what you’re about.'”
  • Pelinka, who added that he believes in treating his superstar players “like partners,” admitted that he has probably had hundreds of three-way calls with James and Davis since the trade as he has solicited their opinions on certain roster moves. “Every single decision. I [have] never been involved so much,” Davis said. “No matter who the player was, he wanted to make sure. It was on everything. And it was like, ‘Wow.’ To the point where I was like, ‘All right, Rob, stop calling me.'”
  • Kendrick Perkins, who was teammates with LeBron in Cleveland and AD in New Orleans, had a hand in bringing the two stars together. The veteran big man introduced Davis to Klutch Sports in 2018 when word got out that he was considering an agent change, writes McMenamin.
  • Rich Paul believes that Davis’ ability to make threes and pass the ball separates him from other stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo. AD’s agent offered the following spicy take: “If you put Anthony Davis on that Bucks team last year, they’d be playing in the Finals. He knows how to make guys better. That’s not a knock to Giannis, but that’s just what [I think].”
  • The NBA was willing to allow LeBron to give up his jersey number (23) to Davis despite the paperwork not being filed in time, but Nike nixed the idea, citing tens of millions of dollars in wasted inventory on James jerseys, sources tell McMenamin.

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Beasley, Schroder, Scott

Center Hassan Whiteside has never averaged more than one assist in any season but he predicts that will change dramatically in his first season with the Trail Blazers, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports.

“I think I’m going to blossom a lot here,” Whiteside told Quick. “[The Trail Blazers] have so much movement, they have so many different plays and reads, I can probably get a triple-double with assists here. You know, I’ve been getting so many assists and dimes … I’m playing more like a point-center here.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • If the Nuggets don’t sign guard Malik Beasley to an extension, they could move him prior to him becoming a restricted free agent, Mike Singer of the Denver Post speculates. Beasley recently hired Rich Paul to represent him and he views himself as a starter but there’s no spot in the lineup for him, Singer continues. If the Nuggets offer Beasley in the $10-11MM annual range and he turns it down, they could theoretically try to trade him for a first-round pick after giving up next June’s first-rounder for Jerami Grant, Singer adds.
  • With Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the roster, Dennis Schroder‘s playing time would seemingly take a hit. Thunder GM Sam Presti insists that’s not the case, as he detailed to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman“There probably will be some discovery with how we see the team develop over the course of time, and (coach) Billy (Donovan) has got to make sure that the team is growing through the season and not just staying fixated because that’s how we started. And Dennis will be a huge … part of the team. He’s just that talented.”
  • Point guard Mike Scott had reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with the Jazz but he was not listed on the training camp roster that the club released on Friday. Scott, not to be confused with the Sixers forward who shares the same name, has spent the last four seasons overseas after coming out of Idaho in 2015. It’s still possible that Scott could be added, though the Jazz would have to drop someone from the 20-man roster.

Charania’s Latest: Nets, Heat, CP3, Noah, Clippers

Despite the fact that multiple Nets players are reportedly pushing for the team to sign Carmelo Anthony, Brooklyn appears very unlikely to do so at this point, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic.

According to Charania, the Nets are more likely to fill their 20-man offseason roster they’ve worked out in recent weeks, including perhaps veteran forward Lance Thomas and swingman C.J. Williams. Dante Cunningham and Luol Deng are among the other free agents who have emerged as viable targets for Brooklyn, Charania adds.

With Wilson Chandler facing a 25-game suspension, the Nets could theoretically move on from the former Nugget to open up a spot on their 15-man regular season roster, but they currently have no plans to do so. As Charania points out, keeping Chandler on the suspended list during his 25-game ban will allow the franchise to recoup some of his salary. Plus, team executives believe Chandler would be quickly scooped up by another team if he were released later in the season.

Here are a few more items of interest from Charania’s latest round-up:

  • The Heat still have some level of trade interest in Thunder point guard Chris Paul, according to Charania. Miami is expected to wait to see how the start of the season goes before seriously considering whether to renew its pursuit of CP3, who would reciprocate the Heat’s interest.
  • Free agent big man Joakim Noah intends to join the Clippers for workouts this week, sources tell Charania. Noah’s father first suggested earlier this month that his son would be working out for the Clippers.
  • Nuggets guard Malik Beasley, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension up until October 21, has hired Rich Paul and Lucas Newton of Klutch Sports for representation, says Charania.
  • Although DeMarcus Cousins is only a one-year contract and seems likely to miss the entire 2019/20 season due to his torn ACL, the Lakers aren’t ready to move on from him yet. The Lakers wants to integrate him into the club’s culture, according to Charania, who notes that Cousins is expected to be around the team during its mini-camp in Las Vegas this week.