Rich Paul on his nationally televised pro day, what to expect from Lonzo Ball's free agency

·7-min read

LOS ANGELES — Rich Paul hosted his annual Klutch Sports pro day Tuesday evening that featured prospects B.J. Boston (Kentucky), Scottie Lewis (Florida), Moses Moody (Arkansas), Jalen Johnson (Duke), Jericho Sims (Texas) and Kai Jones (Texas).

Each prospect wore the No. 5 with “Clarke” on the back of their jerseys to honor former Kentucky Wildcat Terrence Clarke, who died in a car accident in late April. Clarke was signed to Klutch Sports.

Klutch Sports clients who attended the workout as spectators were Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Maxey, Jordan Clarkson, Montrezl Harrell, Talen Horton-Tucker, J.R. Smith, Lonnie Walker, Miles Bridges and Lonzo Ball.

More than 30 kids from youth and families from USC/IYA and Heart of Los Angeles — which provides underserved youth with free programs in academics, arts and athletics — also were provided access to the event.

Scottie Lewis with the ball in his hands during a game last season.
Florida's Scottie Lewis took part in the Klutch Sports pro day on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Paul’s business empire continues to grow. The first three years since launching his agency in 2012, he staffed four employees. Now, he has approximately 40 staff members. In addition to his partnership with United Talent Agency, Paul is demonstrating the immense power he has seized in relatively short time.

Paul’s pro days over the past few years have been a subject of conversation within league circles ever since ESPN agreed to exclusively air them. Last year was the first time ESPN broadcast the workout, featuring the eventual No. 1 pick Edwards and the No. 21 pick Maxey.

Following the hour-long pro day workout Tuesday, Yahoo Sports sat with Paul to discuss how this arrangement came to be, the criticism associated with it from rival agents, why he believes it’s a win-win for all parties and he spoke on a big free agent he’ll be working on this summer in Ball.

Chris Haynes: Having your pro day on national television is unheard of from a sports agency. How did you go about pulling this off?

Rich Paul: What I’d like to say first is the one thing I’m extremely proud of is to see the team we’ve built. Everyone played a major role. Being able to just walk into the gym and see everything positioned properly and running efficiently, it’s a testament to the hard work my team has put in to build something impactful and not just about making money. I can’t thank my team enough. Now regarding our first pro day [in 2019], we had 110 executives in the gym with Darius Garland, Darius Bazley and Talen Horton-Tucker. And last year with Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Maxey, we didn't have the ability to have executives in the gym because of COVID. So, I had to think fast. I thought about a streaming idea and then this opportunity came to mind and I said, let's see if this works. And it has worked because obviously the world was stopped. It made sense. It had such a good viewing that we brought it back again this year. And this year, we got a bigger group. Some are top-10 picks and some may go undrafted, but for us, the pre-draft process is about teaching guys how to develop great habits. Whether you go on to be a great basketball player or not, that's not for me to decide. But you can learn things, you can develop structure, great habits and build that foundation on doing things the right way and develop a routine that carries you throughout life. So that's what we focus on.

CH: From a recruiting standpoint, I’d imagine it has to be a significant selling point to being the only agent that has his pro day broadcast nationally?

RP: Well, we’re the only one that can say that for now. I'm pretty sure that the competition isn’t too pleased. They were already complaining to the league, so they'll figure it out and complain to the networks. But at the end of the day, it's just about being innovative and trying to lead the way for all the guys, even guys we don't represent. It’s a brotherhood, so if me opening this door allows other people to benefit that we don't even represent, these are young men and women and so great. Let's go. I'm OK with that.

CH: I noticed I didn’t see many executives here. Why is that?

RP: Well, the league wouldn't allow them to come.

(This year, pro days for NBA agencies were held in Chicago immediately after the pre-draft combine in Chicago last month to ensure that healthy and safety protocols were enforced. Paul declined to have his pro day in Chicago.)

RP: Well, doing it this way, this is something great for these young men. I didn’t want to spoil their opportunity and this experience as well. So, I was like, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ We’ll do our own pro day and if the pro scouts are not allowed to be there, then they can watch them on TV. And as far as teams getting film, they can get whatever they need from us. Look, they’ve seen these guys since they were in the seventh grade. They know what they can do.

CH: Are there any concerns of overexposing certain guys in a workout on national TV if a player doesn’t have a good workout?

RP: Well, what level are these men trying to play on? It’s not like they’re going to be playing games at the YMCA. And again, it’s not about makes and misses. At 19 years of age, it’s about building a foundation and having an understanding of why you do the things you do. We’ve had guys miss every shot and the team drafted them, a guy make every shot and the team didn’t draft them. There’s really no rhyme or reason. There’s guys that go No. 1 and they’re out the league. You had guys go 46 or 47 and they're going to the Hall of Fame. We've got a guy playing right now in the Finals with Khris Middleton being the 35th pick in the draft. So that's the competition. Instead of people saying, ‘Man, that's a real great idea. Nice job,’ they'd rather say something negative. But I'm not getting into that. At the end of the day, I’m trying to find ways to do what we can and what's best for our guys. So that's what I do.

Lonzo Ball brings the ball upcourt.
Lonzo Ball is a restricted free agent this offseason. (Nell Redmond/USA TODAY Sports)

CH: Looking beyond the draft, you’ve got some free agents to get deals for this summer and one of them is New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, who will be a restricted free agent. What do you two ultimately want?

RP: We’re open-minded. In free agency, we all understand what that is in this landscape of business. He's a really good young player with the ability to become a great player. And so I think there's a lot of interests there. We're open-minded. The phone lines will definitely be open come free agency. At the end of the day, we'll look to make the best deal.

CH: Is New Orleans still an option?

RP: We’re open-minded to the landscape of the league.

CH: Lonzo has made quite the market for himself considering how his career started. When he contemplating signing with you, what were those conversations like?

RP: Our conversation was just about him being himself. These guys are so young and everyone wants to evaluate the movie before it's over. These kids are 19, 20, 21, 22. Imagine in the corporate space, somebody telling you you're 22 years old, but you’re not going to be successful. So, I told him we’re playing the long game, man. And for Zo, he came in with whatever the knock was on his shot, but in NBA you’ve got nothing to do but work on your game. So he's done that and he's earned the position he's in and he'll continue to get better.

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