Rich Paul says LeBron James considers agency and clients ‘family’

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LeBron James trusts his agent, Rich Paul.

That became clear this summer when Paul took fee agent meeting on LeBron’s behalf while LeBron vacationed. Not many players facing such a large decision would take a backseat at any point of the process.

And not many believed in Paul, who was LeBron’s friend before becoming his agent in 2012. It seemed LeBron was just empowering someone close to him rather than hiring the best agent (though a closer look revealed otherwise).

Also working against perception of Paul: Eric Bledsoe’s summer.

Paul represents the Suns guard who spent most of the offseason stuck between restricted free agency and a hard place. Bledsoe refused to sign Phoenix’s four-year, $48 million offer and threatened to accept the qualifying to hit restricted free agency.

A lot of people chose sides – many picking against Paul’s ability to handle the situation.

Few players speak out about how teams and other players should handle free agency, but LeBron did. He was firmly in Paul’s and Bledsoe’s corner.

He encouraged the Suns to pay Bledsoe, and when the Suns did to the tune of five years and $70 million, LeBron congratulated Bledsoe and Paul.

Paul, via Chris Haynes of The Plain Dealer:

“When LeBron said ‘We,’ he meant us. That being myself, LeBron, Eric and the rest of the guys I represent. No one is telling other players that they don’t know what they’re doing when they choose to sign with other agents, so why is it that way with us? Not to mention that we are producing results. So, that’s all he meant. We’re a family.”

You’ll also on occasion find him hanging out and socializing with his clients, something most agents tend to avoid.

“Well, that’s what they (agents) choose to do,” he said while shrugging his shoulders. “There’s an age and interest difference for a lot of them. It’s not an agent-player relationship all the time. We’re all young men that are in business together. That’s how it is and it’s unique. At the same time, I understand it, but again, there’s no right or wrong way to represent a client.

“I’m 33 years old. If a guy is 24, chances are we listen to the same music and like some of the same clothes. We may do things together and hang out. It’s a false perception of what that relationship should look like. That thinking has been set upon us to create this difference between players so that the player perceives the agent as all business. Other agents have fun, too. Players just aren’t interested in doing the things they do.

It’s an interesting set up – one that seems to be working for Paul, LeBron and Bledsoe.

I’m curious how it will affect Tristan Thompson, another Paul client and teammate of LeBron. Thompson, a borderline starter, is eligible for a contract extension.

Do the Cavaliers want to enter tough negotiations with someone LeBron considers family? Or would they rather just overpay Thompson to appease LeBron?