Tampering and salary cap circumvention were chief among the topics at the league’s Board of Governors meeting back in July. The NBA’s owners will take a vote on Friday to determine whether radical new procedures to curb tampering will be implemented starting with the 2019/20 season.
Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN.com report that some teams believe the league is rushing the process of changing the rules. An annual random audit of five NBA clubs’ communication with rival front offices and player agents is a concern for many involved in the decision making.
“I don’t think he (commissioner Adam Silver) should have any right to get into my phone,” one GM said. “I wish my owner would vote no, but I doubt he will. You’ll only make yourself a target for investigation if you do.”
The ESPN duo adds that some executives are planning to “wean themselves off electronic communication” in anticipation of potential rule changes. Messaging services such as WhatsApp could become more popular in NBA circles.
The player movement era has brought on challenges for teams and a bevy of accusations and possible misconduct among players changing uniforms. For example, there’s a belief in some circles that Dennis Robinson—Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle and advisor— requested benefits that fall outside the salary, sources tell the ESPN duo. That’s already not allowed under the current rules, though the league wants to increase the penalties for such action.
In addition to the audits, top executives in front offices would have to “certify annually” that they did not tamper with free agents ahead of the start of free agency or offer any unauthorized benefits. Furthermore, both teams and players would be subject to increased fines under the new proposal. In order for the new proposal to become effective, 23 of the 30 owners/ownership groups would have to vote “yes’ to it.
Many small-market teams are expected to support the proposal for fear that teams in bigger markets may continue to sign away their players. This offseason, Leonard and Kevin Durant were among the player who signed with big-market teams. Anthony Davis and Paul George each demanded a trade to a bigger market with time remaining on their respective contracts.
Silver insists that it isn’t the league’s intention to “establish a police state,” per the ESPN duo. Silver simply wants the owners to create a culture of compliance and accountability.
Regardless of whether the proposal passes, the league will continue to address the tampering issues. Silver has authority to investigate allegations of tampering, according to the CBA, and penalize teams via fines as high as $6MM for unauthorized agreements as well as take away draft picks from clubs.
While the league wants to halt the verbal agreements ahead of free agency, it is to the benefit of both player agents and teams to have an idea of what clubs’ and players’ respective plans are.
“There’s a big difference between having conversations about how a team wants to build its roster, what it prioritizes in free agency and whether they have interest in your player — or having a deal done on June 20,” one prominent agent said. “Both sides are in the information gathering business; that’s the nature of the job.”