Amid reports of a rift between Klutch Sports and Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, NBA superagent Rich Paul went through Stephen A. Smith to set the record straight.
In a statement he made to the esteemed ESPN insider, Paul denied that he tried to force a Russell Westbrook/John Wall trade.
“Rich Paul called me yesterday and asked me to quote him on this story about him, and Klutch Sports, and essentially them wanting the Lakers to trade Russell Westbrook and a first-round pick to Houston for John Wall. He wanted me to state emphatically that there was absolutely, positively no truth to that whatsoever. He never did that. He did not do that. The people who wrote the story never contacted him to get any kind of perspective from him on that," said Stephen A. on First Take.
“It is an absolute lie, and he said ‘could you please do me a favor and quote me and tell the world that I specifically said that’s a damn lie. There is no truth. It never happened.’ Just for what it’s worth, that’s what Rich Paul says about these stories that have been put out there. Fair enough. So I quoted him.”
The Lakers have been at the front and center of the NBA world for days. After an inactive trade deadline, rumors swirled about some resentment towards Rob Pelinka and the way he has handled the team this season.
Rich Paul and his agency have been caught in the crosshairs, and nobody is sure what to make of the situation.
According to multiple NBA sources, Klutch is not happy with Pelinka. The sentiment has long percolated, but it reached a boil when Pelinka refused to trade Westbrook and a future first-round pick (likely 2027) for Houston Rockets guard and Klutch client John Wall.
The move didn't make sense for the Lakers from a basketball standpoint as a significant upgrade over Westbrook, even though Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game last year. Wall hasn't played this season, with the Rockets focusing on developing younger players. From the Klutch point of view, the Lakers would get their client out of a bad situation in Houston and undo the Westbrook mistake.
Rob Pelinka took over in 2017 when he was named GM under the then-President Magic Johnson. When Magic stepped down a few years later, Pelinka stepped up and has been running things ever since.
He deserves major credit for helping build a title-winning team in 2020, but his mistakes over the summer have jeopardized the future of the organization.
Now, there is a sense of unease radiating throughout the entire franchise as Klutch Sports tries to wash their hands clean of it all.