Once free agency in the NBA officially begins after midnight on July 1, there is a moratorium period in place where teams may negotiate with each other and with available free agent players, but no contracts may be signed.
Since technically none of the deals made during this period are official until the ink on a contract has dried, team personnel are prohibited from publicly discussing anything that has been agreed upon during this time.
That’s the rule and the reasoning behind the substantial fine handed down to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday from the league office.
From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
ESPN has learned Houston Rockets just fined $150,000 for unauthorized public comments on Dwight Howard while NBA’s annual moratorium ongoing
At least part of the offending remarks can be heard in this interview Rockets GM Daryl Morey did with CSNHouston shortly following Howard’s announcement.
While it may seem silly that teams aren’t supposed to discuss already-agreed-upon transactions, there’s likely a legitimate business reason for the policy. If something were to happen and Howard (or any other free agent) were to unexpectedly change their mind before signing with a new team, it could cause problems in the areas of ticket sales or advertising deals that were made under the assumption that a certain new player would be coming to town to improve the immediate future of a franchise.
In case you were wondering why a moratorium period is needed in the first place, it’s due to the league and the players’ association using this time to conduct an audit that assists in determining the salary cap figure, which affects the specific dollar amounts allowed on players’ contracts for the following season.
Most teams are wise enough not to engage in these types of conversations, especially publicly, because everyone that holds a high-ranking front office position is well aware of the rules — no matter how senseless they may seem.
The Rockets organization just got a little too carried away in all of the excitement surrounding Howard’s decision. But after committing in the neighborhood of $88 million to him over the next four years, another $150,000 probably won’t sting all that much.