Woodson says ‘legally, no one can recruit anyone’ in response to Melo-Bulls talk. But that’s not necessarily true.

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Knicks head coach Mike Woodson has enough to worry about, including whether he’ll even be employed by the team next season, before he can begin to think about what Carmelo Anthony may choose to do as a potential free agent this summer.

The latest rumor, of course, had Anthony being told by the Bulls’ Joakim Noah that Chicago should be his destination of choice if winning a ring is truly what it’s all about.

Woodson was asked to address the report, and said he believed that if that conversation had taken place, it would be a violation of league rules.

From Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

“You know legally, nobody can recruit anyone,” Woodson said in a radio appearance on ESPN 98.7. “You can’t do that at this point. Melo is still wearing a Knicks uniform and I hope he stays with the Knicks for the rest of his career. So whatever was said between Noah and the Chicago Bulls, that’s on them.” …

Those comments could be viewed as tampering since Anthony is under contract with the Knicks, and could result in a hefty fine for Chicago.

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

The league has strict rules in place against front office personnel reaching out to players under contract with other teams, but nothing that extends to its players discussing playing together at some point in the future.

David Stern addressed this specifically when he was commissioner back in 2010, when the Miami Heat managed to land LeBron James and Chris Bosh in free agency to play alongside Dwyane Wade, who was already in place.

From Howard Beck, then of the New York Times:

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh became Miami Heat teammates last week, turning a shared dream into reality and unleashing a torrent of suspicion: Had they planned it all along? If so, was this collusion? Tampering? Illegal?

The answer, as far as N.B.A. officials are concerned, is probably not. …

“What we told the owners was that the three players are totally, as our system has evolved, within their rights to talk to each other,” Commissioner David Stern said. …

Players on different teams who discuss the idea of someday playing together “is not tampering or collusion that is prohibited,” Stern said.

Why is this the case? Mainly because it would be virtually impossible to enforce.

Players in this era are friends off the court, and talk to one another constantly. When free agency is impending, players obviously are going to discuss what’s next — sometimes playfully, sometimes more seriously.

Either way, whatever discussion did or did not take place between Anthony and Noah is perfectly fine under NBA rules. Woodson doesn’t need to know this specifically, however, because he has more than enough to worry about — especially with the team meeting with Phil Jackson about the head coaching position that Woodson currently occupies.