— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) June 24, 2016
The above is Fox Sports’ Nick Wright explaining how the New York Knicks’ recent acquisition of embattled point guard Derrick Rose sets them up to team Lebron James, Chris Paul, and Dwayne Wade with Carmelo Anthony in the summer of 2017, when the NBA salary cap is projected to rise to $108 million for the 2017-2018 season. This increase is on top of the $24 million jump already guaranteed for the 2016-2017 season due to the influx of money the league is set to receive from its recent media-rights deal signed with ESPN and Turner Sports.
While some may view Wright’s comments as pure conjecture, his words certainly hold some weight due to comments James made back in March, where he stated he’d be willing to take a pay cut to play at least one season with Anthony, Wade, and Paul. With Anthony already with the Knicks, and with the potential for the other three to join the NBA free agent class of 2017, the Zen Master may have one more title trick up his sleeve.
This isn’t the first time James has plotted future teammates; before the formation of the Miami Heat’s big three, rumors James’ talents would be moving to South Beach began swirling due to the relationship formed between the players during the 2008 Olympics. Lebron isn’t the only player known for his recruitment endeavors. Chandler Parsons is notorious for pumping his status as the NBA’s top recruiter, having played a role in Dwight Howard ‘s signing with the Houston Rockets in 2013, and Deandre Jordan’s “signing” with the Dallas Mavericks before he decided the beaches of LA was were he rightfully belonged. In April, with the Rockets down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Parsons was at it again with the following comments:
“I think [Dwight Howard] can still dominate the game. I think he can still be a player in this league. And I think he’s going to leave Houston, so why not come here?”
With the league going the way of more friendships than enemies, you would think NBA owners would implore Commissioner Adam Silver to find a way to limit players from attempting to form super teams or court other players to leave and sign with their team.
The NBA Constitution
Article 35 of the NBA Constitution governs player misconduct. Specifically, section (e) states that any player who, directly or indirectly, attempts to entice, induce, or persuade any other player then under contract to enter into negotiations with another team shall be suspended and/or fined by the Commissioner up to $50,000. However, punishment may only be handed down after the player has been charged and given the opportunity to defend himself against the offense.
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Thus, the NBA engages in due process prior to penalizing players under the provision. The NBA Constitution also prevents teams and general managers from engaging similar tactics. In June 2013, the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings were punished for tampering; the Hawks for emailing season ticketholders about the possibility of landing Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in free agency, and the Kings for then coach Mike Malone stating Paul would “look pretty good in a Sacramento Kings uniform.”
The NBA did not punish Parsons’ for his April comments regarding Dwight Howard leaving the Rockets to join the Mavs, and should Parsons settle his own contractual issues in a timely manner, he figures to play a major role in the team’s recruitment. Thus, while the league appears to have no issue making sure teams remain conscious of their statements, it has yet to single out players for an infraction under this rule.
Time For a Change?
With team officials having to remain cautious of how they come off in the media or with their fans, players such as Parsons have taking it upon themselves to actively recruit opposing players to join forces, whether it be for the ultimate goal of winning an NBA Championship, or because they were old AAU teammates and wish to bring that chemistry to the main stage. Since players have more friends on opposing teams than ever before, it should be no surprise to hear or see another team’s star player enjoying dinner with another player while on the road. Are they discussing how much fun they could have playing together next season or sharing family stories or having some other benign chat? Without a personal ear in the conversation, the public will never know.
Nonetheless, player tampering does not appear to be a major concern of the NBA, and the rule doesn’t appear to be a topic of discussion to be held anytime soon. The NBA is a player driven league, and any measure that serves as providing an avenue for additional player punishment will be surely challenged by the NBAPA. Furthermore, it is the team, and not the player alleged of tampering, that ultimately has the final say in whether to sign a player away in violation of the rule. Until the owners call for a change, or the issue turns into one that requires immediate attention, players will continue to play the role of GM through the media.