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Report: Knicks expected to get penalized for tampering with Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson at Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12: Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball during the game against the New York Knicks on January 12, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Jalen Brunson reportedly decided before free agency officially opened to sign with the Knicks.

Is there any way New York didn’t tamper with Brunson while he was still under contract with the Mavericks?

This situation has numerous layers. The Knicks hired Brunson’s father, Rick Brunson, as an assistant coach. Knicks president Leon Rose is a longtime family friend of the Brunsons. Rose’s son, Sam Rose, is Jalen Brunson’s agent. Knicks executives William Wesley (“World Wide Wes”) and Allan Houston and forward Julius Randle attended a Mavericks-Jazz playoff game in Dallas.

But this is also a classic case of a team losing a player and being upset about it.

Fred Katz of The Athletic:

From what I’ve gathered, the Mavericks are quite frustrated with the Knicks — and not just because reports of a finished deal came out before New York was even allowed to speak with Brunson (though I am not sure how tampering rules account for father-son relationships, and this situation involves two of those). Dallas wasn’t thrilled about Knicks executive William “World Wide Wes” Wesley showing up courtside to a Mavs-Jazz playoff game, either.
People I talk to around the league expect the Knicks to get dinged for tampering.

The NBA’s tampering enforcement seems arbitrary. But a common aspect of tampering cases: A team complains.

If the Mavericks are frustrated enough to file a complaint, the Knicks are more likely to get investigated.

Brunson could just deny the credible-sounding report that turned out to be accurate. He could claim he didn’t hear from the Knicks until free agency opened and didn’t make up his mind until after that – that Shams Charania of The Athletic had it wrong. If the Knicks tampered, all the familial ties between them and Brunson increase the likelihood there’s no paper trail. It would’ve been easy enough to convey plans in face-to-face conversations that could be denied.

Besides, if the Knicks tampered only after Dallas’ season ended, it’s hard to get worked up about that. Though that’d technically violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it doesn’t violate the spirit of why tampering rules were originally implemented – to protect teams while they were still competing.

That said, there should be consistent enforcement. It’s unfair that only some teams get punished for breaking a rule that’s practically universally broken.

Plus, the Knicks might have contacted Brunson during Dallas’ season. That’s far less accepted.

Or maybe the Knicks didn’t contact Brunson early at all. That strains credulity, but it is possible. If the only evidence is Knicks personnel attending the Mavericks playoff game, there’s precedent to allow that.

As far as Brunson’s deal leaking early… If the NBA is putting the Knicks under a microscope because that, the league should look into all the teams that reached deals with outside free agents within minutes of free agency opening. Those are practically as incredible as New York’s arrangement with Brunson.