Small-Market GMs Upset NBA Won’t Enforce Tampering Rules

11:02am: An NBA spokesperson has issued the following tampering-related statement to Wojnarowski (Twitter link): “Each case is assessed on its own facts. In general, absent evidence of team coordination or other aggravating factors, it is not tampering when a player makes a comment about his interest in playing with another team’s player.”

10:26am: After LeBron James said this week that it would be “amazing” to team up with Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, general managers of smaller-market teams are “privately expressing outrage” over what they perceive as the NBA’s unwillingness to enforce its own tampering rules, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

[RELATED: Anthony Davis responds to LeBron’s comments]

Tampering penalties are typically levied on executives who discuss other teams’ players, with the Lakers having been on the receiving end of a pair of fines from the NBA in recent years for Magic Johnson‘s and Rob Pelinka‘s comments and actions. Players have generally been permitted to freely discuss other teams’ players without fear of reprisal from the league. However, as Wojnarowski notes, the NBA’s bylaws suggest players can be hit with tampering penalties as well. Those bylaws include the following section:

“Any Player who, directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce or persuade any Player, Coach, Trainer, General Manager, or any other person who is under contract to any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services shall, on being charged with such tampering, should be given an opportunity to answer to such charges after due notice and the Commissioner shall have the power to decide whether or not the charges have been sustained.”

According to Wojnarowski, multiple GMs reached out to Pelicans GM Dell Demps this week to “express dismay,” since they believe the NBA tacitly endorses comments like the ones James made, as they help generate drama, headlines, and discussion for the league.

“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.”

“If these are the rules, enforce them,” one Western Conference GM said. “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.’ But give us a list of the rules that you’re enforcing, and give us a list of the rules that you’re going to ignore.”

While it would be one thing if Davis was on the verge of reaching free agency, small-market GMs are also dismayed at the fact that these sort of public comments are being made about a player who can’t even become a free agent until 2020, per Wojnarowski.

“Interference is as bad as tampering — maybe worse in this case,” an Eastern GM said. “This becomes a campaign meant to destabilize another organization, install chaos and unrest that make it harder to keep an environment that the player would want to stay in. There’s no use in complaining to the league about it. We all get that it’s a players’ league, but there are rules on the books that they need to follow too.”

For his part, Demps didn’t offer any comment to Wojnarowski, but told Jennifer Hale of Fox Sports (Twitter link) earlier this week that the Pelicans were “leaving it up to the league” to determine whether James’ comments qualified as tampering.

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56 thoughts on “Small-Market GMs Upset NBA Won’t Enforce Tampering Rules

  1. bowserhound

    Seriously? Giannis straight up said ‘come to the Bucks’ and nobody said a word. LBJ responded to a direct question by saying ‘it would be great’.

    Huge difference.

    • Luke Adams

      It was interesting that the Giannis comment wasn’t mentioned at all in Woj’s report. I’m guessing the GMs were more frustrated by LeBron’s comment because Giannis’ was more of a joke during a one-on-one exchange with Davis that happened within earshot of a reporter — LeBron addressed the topic in an actual interview, speaking directly to a reporter.

      • bowserhound

        These GMs are basically just butt-hurt because everything LBJ says is a headline. Not his fault.

      • x%sure

        Your point is well refuted by this controversy. People in the know think it only takes an “amazing” from Lebron and a player will make plans to get there.

        Which is a bit much to attribute to Lebron IMO, but the campaign is real and has started!

        • You are out of the loop. Kyrie, Paul George, Kawhi, Durant. In Durant’s article they had 15 guys that didn’t want to. When this summer gets here you very well could be eating your words.

          • x%sure

            They play the same position. They’re not going to join forces, with each other as well. Was there a notable SF on the teams they did join?– no.

            • Dodgethis

              Uh, tons of players have had the opportunity to play with LeBron, all have declined. History proves good players don’t want anything to do with queen James.

              • x%sure

                Uh, Nobody complained when James moved to a new team. Instead, excitement prevailed. Uh, you seem to be not naming names, names like Wade or Love. Uh, “history proves” player movement depends on money and fit, not James.

      • SheaGoodbye

        Well, when their choice comes down to not winning a championship versus playing with LeBron, it makes it a lot easier to go the latter route.

  2. Small-market teams? Isn’t there a salary cap so it doesn’t matter if you’re small Market or big Market?

    Are we talkin big Market because of opportunities outside of basketball?

    Well any player can get National advertising contracts, right? Do I have to live in LA to get an All-State contract? I don’t think so.

    These guys have all summer long to secure a month of work to film some commercials that’ll play the whole next season.

    These guys would rather travel, go to Europe than find advertising opportunities.

    You don’t have to live in LA. Hire a better agent or marketing specialist. Play in New Orleans but hire an LA guy or team to set up off-season Geico commercials.

    • My point is, people need to quit whining.

      Become a better team, become a place free agents want to go. Quit complaining.

      • x%sure

        People forget that the Lakers went to unprecedented lengths to draw and prepare for Lebron. It wasn’t even mostly about Hollywood. Any team could have done it. Albeit, if small-market, with less confidence than LAL.

        The Lakers did not even try to re-sign Randle, 20PER and rising, and he only left for a 2/$18. 23PER now at NOP. But it was supposed, not a fit with Lebron.
        DARussell, Clarkson, Nance traded for capspace– good young players that teams do not typically trade.

  3. dimitrios in la

    Small-market teams that are outraged, first, should be; second, they should exercise their legal power on the matter.

    • bowserhound

      …which is zero power. Go ahead and sue (the league?) over LBJ saying “it would be amazing” and see how much laughter ensues.

      • dimitrios in la

        I would imagine a good legal team could put together a case that the League has repeatedly violated the agreement in place.

  4. acarneglia

    The difference between LeBron’s comments and Giannis’s comments are how it came up. LeBron was directly asked and basically said “hell yeah” to the media. Giannis did it in the hallway after the game 1-on-1 with AD.

  5. They also might be more butt-hurt because they fear that Bron’s innocent remark may carry more weight now that they have the same agent?

    • bowserhound

      Must be true! KCP is also a Rich Paul client, so that MUST have been why LeBron ended up on the Lakers. Fine them, fine them all to hell!

  6. bowserhound

    How about, if a reporter asks such stupid questions that lead to answers that are entrapment of NBA rules, they get their press pass yanked.

    • Luke Adams

      It’s a reporter’s job to ask questions that will result in juicy answers. It would’ve been very easy for LeBron to blow it off if he’d wanted to (“He’s a great player but I’m focused on continuing to build chemistry with my own teammates” or whatever).

      • x%sure

        Would a jury think people should be required to talk like that? Lebron just spoke the truth– it WOULD be amazing if AD joined your team.

        As for the commish being the jury, Silver already bent over backwards to fine FO personnel.

    • ChiSoxCity

      Entrapment? Any veteran player that’s been in the league as long as LeBron knows the rules. He just does it anyway because he feels entitled. They should fine him like they did Magic, but they’re nut huggers.

      • LordBanana

        Players saying they want to play with other players isn’t tampering. You can’t fine him if he doesn’t break the rules.

  7. The NBA could restrict what players publicly say at PC’s or in interviews on this topic, and enforce it with a series of fines. This is already done as to other things, and it works pretty well.

    Best to leave the concepts like tampering and interference of contract, out of any such regulation of player speech. The burdens of proving a player a potential tampering party would be too great to allow even handed enforcement.

  8. I just find it to be hilarious that the Lakers and LeBron are trying so hard to find a 2nd star and they aren’t getting anywhere. I find it even funnier that LeBron and his $765mm are the only big ticket item the Lakers have been able to get to Los Angeles since Kobe left.

  9. goldenmisfit

    I find it funny you are such a Lakers hater. The only guy they were able to get? Out of to target? 50% success rate sounds good to me. Keep drinking your hater raid.

        • George is having an All Star season. I remember last summer all you guys saying George is from L.A. and wants to come back. He did want to before LeBron got there. It shows now he made the right move. So did Kyrie. The best thing out of all of this is they said a couple days ago that Rich Paul and AD are already discussing a new contract with the Pelicans. No AD. No Kawhi. No Jimmy. No Durant. No Klay Thompson. No Kyrie. No Kris Middleton. It took the Lakers 5 years before they got LeBron. Could it be 5 more years before they find another star.

  10. Spike4christ

    LeBron is the NBA at the moment. Who comes to play next year or at the deadline will be big news. I think they should keep the players they have. I feel Ingram will get it soon. Ball and Kuzma are a great pair as well.

    • ChiSoxCity

      The LeBron-centric NBA will be more interesting when he’s gone. All he does is suck the air out of the sport with his constant media-whoring, control freak-outs, and passive-aggressive behavior in the media.

  11. Ironmonger835

    There needs to be a mandatory punishment where you must forfeit 3 first round picks.

  12. phenomenalajs

    I think that rule is ridiculous. It should only be tampering if you would have a direct role in the acquisition of a player, like for an owner, team president, COO/EVP, GM, or head coach, or, possibly, team doctor.
    Notice nothing was made of it when LeBron made clear his desire to bring his friend, Carmelo, to the Lakers. Carmelo may have been sent home from the team, but he is still under contract to the Rockets.

    • Or Lance Stephenson, McGee, Rondo, or Beasley. Small market managers are talking about stars though, not role players.

      • Melo is a superstar man! HOF!!! Roll players don’t get to the hall, as simple as dude!

        • He’s been in the NBA “19 years.” OKC and Houston dumped him because he can’t play defense any more and refuses to come off the bench. The Knicks couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Nobody wants him now except his buddy LeBron. Magic doesn’t want him. Time to retire.

  13. Reflect

    So the owners that came up with the rules in the first place, are upset about the rules. And they are whining to the office that works to serve the owners, instead of just requesting new rules?

  14. Seems dumb to us, but jersey sales could slump. Why buy a AD jersey if he’s just going to leave for LA anyway? Why purchase season tickets for next season if he won’t be there? Yes these are all little things to them, but this isn’t the NFL where the owners are drowning in profits. This could wound a small market team. With that being said, I don’t see a problem with what either of them said. If LeGM starting naming players he’d trade for AD then ok.

    • x%sure

      First good point for the prosecution. Jersey sales, $.
      And the honesty of the remark, not part of some diabolical plot.

    • bowserhound

      For the record, small market teams still make millions of dollars every season. I feel for them and their jersey sales though…

  15. Jeff Zanghi

    How/why would you enforce ‘tampering’ rules against a player? Like I get it if it’s the owner or GM or even the coach… but you can’t just decide that players can’t say “oh I’d love to play with that guy” … like that’s just an obvious statement. Of course LeBron would love to play with Anthony Davis… he’s one of the best players in the NBA. There’s no like secret Kabal or nefarious activity going on here… it’s just one superstar saying he’d love to play with another superstar…

    • ChiSoxCity

      There are 153 Million reasons why LeBron should shut up. What other reason would you need?

  16. x%sure

    “Entice, induce or persuade, or attempts to”, “directly or indirectly”.
    Maybe some people aren’t sure what these words mean, but these are similar words which imply some plan is in place. James saying, “that would be amazing”, does not qualify. There is nothing provable here.
    The complaints now, on this, is related to the importance of AD & him.

    Another reason. . . a previous one-word outrageous remark by James, like “amazing”. That would be “bum”, referring to Trump, who is popular with the rich, and the racists.

    The complainers are staying anonymous for a reason; they know they’re out of line. Silver did them a favor, going after Aids Johnson, and now they use that favor as leverage to go after Lebron too– just like gangsters try to get that first favor from their target to get them fully compromised.

    Maybe it is time to follow the rules– Entice, induce, persuade. Ignore the complaints and give Earvin a refund to make things equal.

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