LeBron James of the 2012 USA Basketball

LeBron changing agents, leaving CAA to be repped by friend


Once again, LeBron James is leaning on his childhood friends and moving away from long-time industry professionals to represent him. That hasn’t always led to the best decisions in the past but it is his pattern over the years.

LeBron is letting go of Leon Rose and the power of CAA (Creative Artists Agency) — and with that moving away from power broker William Wesley — to be represented by a new agency formed childhood friend Rich Paul. Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal broke the story.

It was CAA that helped bring LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade together in Miami (the agency represented all of them).

Paul has become an agent, basically starting Rose’s apprentice at CAA but he has learned a lot during the last four years and is leaving the agency to form his own. There is no bad blood, this is just LeBron going where he is more comfortable, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. And there are not going to be dramatic changes for LeBron, really.

Paul’s first name is one of the initials in LRMR, the marketing firm LeBron formed with Maverick Carter and other friends several years back. (LeBron sold his marketing rights to Fenway Sports Group last year, a deal that in part gave him a piece of English soccer powerhouse Liverpool Football Club.)

LeBron has a lot of people who come at him off the court trying to get a piece of him and his pattern is to lean on the people he has known the longest, people he believes he can trust. Paul is one of them. Paul also is the agent for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tristan Thompson, Eric Bledsoe and Jonny Flynn and some are expected to follow him to the new agency. Paul is a legitimate agent, not some fly by night guy.

This is not the first agent switch for James, who started in the league with Aaron Goodwin but moved to Rose two years into his NBA career.

What does it mean? In the short term not much, but it could be important down the line. Maybe. But probably not.

LeBron and the Heat aren’t breaking up the band for a couple years, if ever. So long as they are winning rings the core will stay together. About the only thing to watch — Paul will not collect any money on LeBron’s current contract, but if he opts out in 2014 Paul would collect on any new deal.

This might not mean much as and hammering out max contracts for LeBron is not the hard part of being an agent. And so long as the big three of the Heat agree to stay together (and maybe take a little less money to do so) contract negotiations with Miami are not going to be overly complex. It’s not like Paul has to go out and hustle up offers for LeBron. There are no financial negotiations.

But now LeBron is under different management than Bosh and Wade, both of whom are still with CAA. Read into that whatever you want.

LeBron is locked in for two more years in Miami, then his deal has a couple years of player options on it. Both Wade and Bosh have similar deals. Like I said, they are not looking to breakup the band, so those options may be meaningless. We’ll see.

It all could mean nothing, but it’s something to watch.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.