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Did LeBron James tamper saying he would like to play with Anthony Davis?

The rumors of Anthony Davis being traded from the Pelicans to the Celtics or Lakers are the top storylines in the NBA, but there's nothing to them until Davis turns down the Pelicans' offer.

This week, LeBron James said it would be “incredible” to play with Anthony Davis.

If Lakers’ president Magic Johnson had said that exact same thing, the NBA league office would have slapped Los Angeles with a massive tampering fine before he finished the sentence. But if a player says it, the league looks the other way.

Is that right? Is it fair> Some small market GMs complained to Adrian Wojnarowski it is not.

“It’s New Orleans’ problem today, and a problem with a different player tomorrow for the rest of us,” one Eastern Conference GM told ESPN. “It’s open season on small markets and our players....”

Rival teams contend James’ public longing for players under contract has created a tsunami of reaction, coverage and consequences that can be seen as designed to destabilize an opposition organization working to retain its star player.

Read the NBA’s bylaws and a strict interpretation of the rules would suggest LeBron did tamper. Certainly, if a member of any team’s management had said what LeBron did the league would have come down hard on them, but the league told Wojnarowski that each case is different.

Small market GMs feel they are at a massive disadvantage on the free agent market, and they are more than happy to complain about it. That superstars in big markets can speak out and recruit publicly with impunity just makes it that much harder on the smaller markets, those GM say. They want LeBron and other players held to the standards that front office members are.

“If these are the rules, enforce them,” one Western Conference GM told ESPN. “If you want to push Anthony Davis in L.A., if you allow LeBron to interfere with teams, then just do it. Change the rules, and say, ‘It’s the wild, wild west and anything goes.’”

My question:

Was what LeBron said really that big a deal?

It was public — because he was answering a question asked of him — but what he said also was not a surprise. Turns out LeBron wants to win and would like to play with another of the top five players in the NBA to help get him there. Shocking, I know. The media blew the story up (*raises hand*) and the Pelicans had to deal with the fallout, but was what LeBron said actually new or a surprise?

Besides, if LeBron wants to let Davis know they should team up in Los Angeles LeBron would pick up his phone and text. Or, send a message through their shared agent. Or, pull AD aside during All-Star Weekend and let him know. Or... you get the idea. LeBron will let Davis know what he was thinking in no uncertain terms. The same way Draymond Green called Kevin Durant to recruit him just after the Warriors lost in the NBA Finals to the Cavaliers.

The NBA’s tampering rules do seem antiquated, especially for a social media age. But Davis already knew what LeBron was thinking, you can be sure LBJ will send AD other messages as well.