Guilty by association but once again a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, Rich Paul strolled into Cleveland Clinic Courts along side team owner Dan Gilbert looking to be a part of the newest chapter of Wine and Gold history.
“It’s like I never left,” Paul tells WFNY on a day where the Cleveland media and select public were introduced to the two newest members of the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. A friend of LeBron James, a member of the infamous four hoursemen, and one of the R’s in LRMR – the marketing agency that will forever be linked with all things evil when it comes to Cleveland sports and fandom – Paul now finds himself as the player representative for Thompson, marking the first time the James confidant has been back with the team since the night of The Decision.
It was actually Paul who opted to call the Cavaliers on that fateful evening, having a very good personal relationship with both Gilbert and the team’s current general manager Chris Grant. Grant was the one who would ultimately receive Paul’s message, words that were not ordered by anyone in James’ camp, but just something the 30-year-old (who doesn’t look a day over 20) thought was the “right thing to do.”
Clad in a tailored navy blue sport coat topped off with a 2011 NBA Draft pin in his lapel on this day, the 5-foot-10-inch Paul finds himself in a land of giants. The 6-foot-9-inch Thompson is just the newest member in his stable of NBA talent as names like Houston’s Jonny Flynn and Los Angeles’ Eric Bledsoe have already helped pave the way for the budding Creative Arts Agency representative. Learning bits and pieces from established reps like Leon Rose, Paul seems focused to make his name in the agent arena. And while LRMR will continue to operate as the marketing arm, Paul tells WFNY that his work with CAA is something completely independent.
Shortly after the selection of Thompson and the dissemination of who his representation was, a negative reaction permeated Twitter; the stench of all things LRMR was rampant as trade requests and James-related quips were thrown about. Like many players their age, both Irving and Thompson said they look up to James as a player. Thompson went as far as to refer to James as a “big brother” in an interview on draft night.
But if one thing was made clear by Paul, he’s making a valient attempt at keeping the line between business and personal definitely drawn – a distinction that is often difficult to delineate when it comes to sports. He understands that there is a lot of ill will still festering in Cleveland as The Decision was less than one year ago, but he also knows that there is very little – if anything – that he can do to make that better. What he can do is represent one of the players who will hopefully help the Cavaliers get back to the same level of prominence they had when he walked the halls of the Cleveland Clinic Courts many years prior.
In the truest of moments, Paul reiterated that he understands how Gilbert and James are not the best of friends when it comes to present day. But when it is all said and done, he hopes that the two men – who made a lot of money for one another – will ultimately patch things up and move on in their respective ways.
“LeBron’s going to be his man, and Dan’s going to be his man,” said Paul. “But in the end, I hope there comes a time when the two men can sit down and see eye to eye.”