Probe targets former business manager

NEW YORK – The NBA Players Association is investigating charges that a former certified player agent stole several hundred thousand dollars from Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton and the union says it will turn potential findings over to legal authorities for possible prosecution, Yahoo! Sports has learned.

Hamilton has accused Josh Nochimson of defrauding him over several years as his business manager. Multiple sources say audits indicate the three-time All-Star could’ve been bilked for as much as $500,000.

“It’s just something that you never think, in a million years, can happen to you,” Hamilton told Yahoo! Sports. “You hear about the horror stories, but never think it’ll be you. Never, never you.”

When Hamilton was an All-American at the University of Connecticut in the late 1990s, Nochimson, a student-manager on the team, befriended him. Nochimson moved with Hamilton to the NBA in 1999 as a personal assistant and business manager. While never representing Hamilton as his registered agent, Nochimson had been the agent for the Chicago BullsLuol Deng until 2007.

The Boston Globe’s Marc Spears first reported Nochimson’s decertification and alleged impropriety in June.

Nochimson did not return several calls from Yahoo! Sports for this story.

“Once the impropriety came to light, he decertified himself in lieu of the union initiating an investigation against him,” NBPA spokesman Dan Wasserman said Friday. “On the player’s request, the Players Association is conducting an investigation into the allegations of financial impropriety. And based on the results of that investigation, we will forward any possible findings to the appropriate authorities.”

Sources say that the missing money was found through credit cards that Nochimson used without Hamilton’s knowledge. Hamilton’s agent is Leon Rose of CAA, who helped his client uncover the alleged impropriety by Nochimson. The union’s investigation of the alleged transgressions could also assist Hamilton in a civil suit against Nochimson.

“I feel violated,” Hamilton said. “It is about the money, but it’s also the trust factor. It’s the loyalty factor. You befriend somebody. You bring them around your family. Everybody knows him. Everybody loves him, just because of you. He pretty much ran my corporation. He knew how to manipulate it.

“The loyalty part killed me more than anything.”

After discovering the alleged impropriety this spring, Hamilton said he called Deng and told the Bulls star to check his own financial records. After Nochimson failed to negotiate Deng a long-term extension with the Bulls in 2007, he was replaced with Jason Levien, a more established NBA player agent. Levien negotiated Deng’s five-year, $71 million contract this summer.

Even after replacing Nochimson as his agent, sources say Deng maintained a relationship with him. Once the allegations with Hamilton surfaced and Nochimson voluntarily had himself decertified, league sources say members of the Bulls front office warned Deng to stay away from his former agent.

Deng and Levien declined comment on Friday.

“I told Luol what happened, and he couldn’t believe it,” Hamilton said. “He was like, ‘Not you, Rip. He raves about you. He loves you.’ I said, ‘If you think he could do it to me, just imagine what he’ll do to you and everybody else.’

“That’s what blows my mind. Every contact and every person [Nochimson] met, he got off of me. That’s the sad thing about it. He had a great opportunity. He got Luol. He got his agent’s license. He was about to sign a big deal [for Deng], and he [expletive] this up.”

Hamilton agreed to a new three-year, $34 million extension with the Pistons earlier this week. He hopes that talking about what happened to him will encourage his peers to be more vigilant with their business dealings.

“That’s the most important thing,” Hamilton said. “We don’t like to look over stuff, but you can’t trust anybody. I don’t give a damn who it is, you can’t trust nobody. When you think you can trust somebody, and you don’t start looking over your stuff, it’s nobody’s fault but your own.”