Report: Teams readying to call on NBA to investigate 76ers-James Harden connection
There’s a lot of smoke about Nets star James Harden joining the 76ers.
But the seeds being planted now are already raising suspicions throughout the NBA.
Many NBA tampering cases involve relatively harmless behavior. Who really cares whether teams negotiate early with free agents after the season, especially if everyone does it? An owner or executive publicly discussing why he wouldn’t trade for a player on another team doesn’t really change much. Even the league finally acknowledged isolated compliments from an executive should no longer draw tampering fines.
But a team – especially through an owner – recruiting a star away from a championship contender during the season? That’s exactly what most people want stopped.
The Nets aren’t the only team that could claim aggrievement. Other teams also want a chance to pursue Harden themselves. If teams are trying to operate by the book (or at least closer to it), that could put them at an extreme disadvantage. The chase for Harden could be complete before it’s supposed to begin under even the most liberal understandings of when it’s permissible to pitch a player. That type of concern might have prompted the Bulls (Lonzo Ball) and Heat (Kyle Lowry) receiving tampering penalties.
It’s worth remembering 76ers president Daryl Morey already got fined for tampering with Harden. Though it was over a tweet where Morey acknowledged the anniversary of Harden breaking the Rockets’ career assists record (which happened while both were in Houston) – such a trivial reason for a fine – the incident might have been foreboding. Hackles are raised over Morey’s connection to Harden.
This additional scrutiny could foil an opt-in-and-trade, which could allow Harden to earn higher salaries and – unlike a sign-and-trade – not trigger a hard cap for his new team. Harden must exercise his player option by June 29. He’s not permitted to talk to other teams until June 30. It’s practically impossible to see how an opt-in-and-trade would work without tampering.
Though Chris Paul and the Rockets (run by Morey) and Clippers executed an opt-in-and-trade in 2017, that was before the NBA talked about cracking down on tampering.
This situation could provide insight into how much the tampering landscape has really changed.