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.