The NBA Is Getting Serious About Tampering

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference as part of the 2022 All-Star Weekend at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on February 19, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio.
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)


Lately, the NBA league office has been serving notice that teams must abide by the guidelines it has regarding trades and free agency.

The league is looking at the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers for possible tampering charges regarding recent moves both teams made.

The Knicks are being targeted regarding their signing of free agent guard Jalen Brunson, while the Sixers are being questioned about the new deal they gave to star guard James Harden.

In past years, the NBA almost never investigated teams for possible tampering charges, but now, it is getting serious about enforcing such rules.


Philly Is Being Questioned About Multiple Signings

Earlier this offseason, Harden turned down his big player option for the 2022-23 season in order to sign a two-year contract that was worth slightly less per year.

That is reportedly the big focus of the NBA’s probe.

“One of the central elements of the league’s inquiry includes questions on Harden’s decision to decline a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23 and take a pay cut on a new two-year, $68 million deal, sources said,” wrote Adrian Wojnarowski. “Around the league, there have been questions about whether there is already a handshake agreement in place on a future contract — which would be in violation of collective bargaining rules.”

But that is not the only thing Philly may end up getting in trouble for.

Two other decisions that are under fire are the free agent signing of veteran forward P.J. Tucker and guard Danuel House.


New York Is Also Under The Microscope

For so many years, the Knicks had failed to win in free agency, but this year, they scored an unexpected victory.

Brunson broke out this past season for the Dallas Mavericks, especially come playoff time, when he was one of the biggest reasons they upset the heavily-favored Phoenix Suns and advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

It was widely expected that Brunson would re-up with Dallas, but shortly before free agency started, there were rumblings that the Knicks would make a big move to nab him and that he would accept their offer.

That was exactly what happened.

What makes the situation suspicious is that Brunson’s father Rick, a former player, recently got hired by New York to be an assistant coach, while team president Leon Rose is a former agent who represented the elder Brunson.


Other Recent Investigations Show The NBA Is Cracking Down On Tampering

Last year, both the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls were found to be guilty of tampering charges after signing Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball, respectively, and both lost a second-round draft pick as a result.

When the Milwaukee Bucks attempted to do a sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic prior to the 2020-21 season, the NBA investigated them for illegal early contact with him, and they lost a second-round pick as a result.

The Bucks were spooked enough to give up on acquiring the sharpshooting forward.

Several years ago, then-Los Angeles Lakers executive Magic Johnson made reference to trying to acquire Paul George while on an episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and later on, the team was found guilty of tampering, which resulted in a $500,000 fine.

Under NBA rules, teams are not allowed to have any contact with players who aren’t under contract with them until the start of the free agency period each summer, which was at 6 p.m. New York time on June 30 this year.

In the old days, tampering investigations were virtually unheard of, other than one done on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the early 2000s regarding big man Joe Smith.

But now, commissioner Adam Silver is making it be known that his rules are actual rules.

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