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Current, former NBA GMs say tampering is commonplace


Sort of like speeding down an almost empty midwestern freeway, tampering in the NBA is something everybody does. The goal is just not to get caught.

The Lakers, specifically GM Rob Pelinka, got caught and paid a hefty $500,000 fine for it (although it could have been worse, the NBA said there was no deal between the sides, at which point they could have blocked George coming to the Lakers).

The incident put a spotlight on tampering in the NBA, which is something everybody does. Everybody. Look at what current and former executives told Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report.

“If you’re not cheating by the letter of the law,” says one former GM, “you’re not trying.”

Adds a current Eastern Conference GM: “You don’t get free agents without it. [Tampering] is what the whole league is built on. That’s the only way you can get anything done….

“If you’re an agent and you wait until July 1 to find out what your client’s options are, you’re going to get fired. You’ll be sitting there while your client’s options are falling off the table.”

Ever notice that at 12:01 Eastern on July 1, a minute after NBA free agency has begun, deals are announced. The only way that happens is with tampering. The two sides — the team and the player’s agent — have worked out the deal before free agency opened, they just couldn’t announce it yet.

Teams put out feelers and ask to see if there is interest in Player X coming to their franchise, if it is worth even pursuing. If it is, the sides get a sense of what the other is looking at concerning finances just to make sure they are in the ballpark. That way when July 1 rolls around, teams have an idea where to focus their resources.

Of course Pelinka wanted Paul George‘s agent to know his team was interested — you think the Lakers are the only team to do that? If so, you’ve also probably given money to help that poor Nigerian prince. The only difference is everyone around the league knows George has his eyes on L.A., the Magic Johnson interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live ticked off the Pacers owner, the Pacers then asked for an investigation, and Rob Pelinka left enough of a trail he got caught. However, if you don’t think Pacers president Kevin Pritchard has tampered, well, again, that Nigerian prince thanks you for your help.

There should be a broader discussion of if tampering is even something worth enforcing in the modern NBA. Right now it works about as well as stopping speeding on the highways of America. The Lakers let George’s agent know they were interested when he becomes a free agent next summer — so what? Was this news worthy of a fine? Now, if the two sides worked out a deal that involved off-the-books compensation in keeping a salary down — the Joe Smith/Timberwolves case — that’s different (and Bucher’s report says that still goes on to a degree). But the Lakers could have had Julius Randle, who shares an agent with George, go to him and recruit him and the league is good with that, the NBA league office will not stop player-to-player recruiting. Assistant coaches on Team USA are head coaches in the NBA who get to build relationships with the game’s elite with the NBA’s full approval. The line is fuzzy, poorly enforced, and seems an issue of times gone by.

The Lakers former GM, Mitch Kupchak, notoriously played by the rules and didn’t contact agents until July 1. How did that work with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant — Kupchak’s Lakers were starting weeks behind everyone else in the process. Pelinka was playing the game, he just got caught.

And this Lakers’ fine isn’t going to stop anyone from tampering, just like that ticket doesn’t stop speeding.



Pacers use late surge to beat Clippers, close in on playoffs

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.

The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.

Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.

They certainly had a chance to turn things around.

After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.

Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.

The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.

They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.

The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.

Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.

Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.


LeBron James throws touchdown pass like Cleveland fans hope Sam Darnold can

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Cleveland fans can only hope Sam Darnold is as good a passer as LeBron James.

And that his receivers are better than Jose Calderon. Or at least taller.

LeBron James grabbed a rebound and threw a perfect touchdown pass to a leaked out Jose Calderon as the Cavaliers went on to beat the Phoenix Suns Friday night.

🙌🏽 @kingjames 🎯 @jmcalderon8 🙌🏽

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By the way, LeBron made a nice dish to the returned Larry Nance Jr., too.


Report: Rockets to waive Brandan Wright

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Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.

It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.

The Rockets are moving on, waiving Wright and bringing in forward Le’Bryan Nash out of the G-League on a 10-day contract, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…

He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.

 “Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”

Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.

The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.

Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.



Cavaliers get Nance Jr., Thompson, Hood back from injuries

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers are closer to being at full strength.

Forwards Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, and Rodney Hood all returned from injuries on Friday night as Cleveland, which has been riddled with injuries all season, hosted the Phoenix Suns. Acting coach Larry Drew said none of the players will start and all will be on minutes’ restrictions.

Drew, who is filling in while coach Tyronn Lue is on leave to address his own health, plans to keep his starting lineup intact and ease the returning players into the rotation.

LeBron James, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jeff Green and Kevin Love were scheduled to started against Phoenix, which has lost nine in a row. Drew said he and Lue will talk again Saturday about lineup changes for the upcoming trip to Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte.

“I really didn’t want to disrupt the starting five that we have out there right now and those guys will be playing limited minutes, so I wanted to get them slowly back and acclimated to what we’re doing,” Drew said. “There’s a chance that there could be some early substitutions to get the guys in there. I’m not ruling that out, but right now I just kind of want to stay with the flow, stay with what we’ve done the last couple of ballgames and then we’ll probably after tonight we’ll see as far as where we stand as far as starters are concerned.”

Thompson missed nine games with a sprained right ankle, Nance Jr. was out four with a hamstring issue and Hood was out the past three games with a bad back.

Drew said he did not know if Lue will accompany the team on its trip.

But while the Cavs are healthier than they’ve been in weeks, the team is still missing Kyle Korver, who is with his family in Iowa following the death of his brother, and rookie Cedi Osman, who is sidelined with a left hip flexor strain.