Dwight Howard and Chris Paul will become free agents on July 1, but they’re not free agents yet. So the Hawks probably shouldn’t be using those two to sell tickets.
The letter, obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was sent via e-mail from one member of the ticket sales department. It was on team letterhead and headlined “Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.” It began with the statement: “The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up. With massive cap space, 4 draft picks, and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality.”
Hawks president Bob Williams issued a statement on the issue Tuesday evening. “The letter that has been referred to was written by one of our season ticket reps of his own volition. While certainly he is a member of our business staff, his specific reference clearly does not represent how our basketball operations or our business staff have consistently communicated about free agency. It is unfortunate that this mistake, by a single ticket rep with no ill intent, occurred.”
According to a league spokesman, the NBA would not comment on the situation.
As part of its Collective Bargaining Agreement the league defines tampering as when a player or team directly or indirectly entices, induces or persuades anybody under contract with another team in order to negotiate for their services. The NBA detailed its anti-tampering policy in a memo sent to all 30 teams in 2008. The letter read: “If a member of your organization is asked by the media about a potential free agent prior to the July 1 following the last season covered by the player’s contract, or about any other person under contract with another NBA team, the only proper response is to decline comment.” The ban extends to general managers, coaches, players or any employee of an organization.
By the letter of the law, this was definitely tampering. But there many other examples of tampering by that standard.
After Game 7, Frank Vogel said, “I think Dwyane would have had a good night whether he was guarding Paul or not. I think he’s that level of a competitor. LeBron guarding Paul probably impacted him some. He’s the best player in the world. Maybe the best defensive player in the world.” Was that tampering? Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are definitely under contract with another NBA team.
Tampering definitely has a “you know it when you see it” standard, and this probably violates it.
Because this transgression was committed by such a low-level staffer, I doubt the Hawks face serious repercussions from the NBA. The ticket rep might not be so likely when it comes to how the Hawks deal with him.