We know that tampering the NBA is commonplace. It’s also hard to prove.
Unless you’re Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s not often you see teams, GMs, or coaches get hit with tampering charges. Most folks aren’t as blatant about pursuing guys like Paul George.
Still, it’s good to be careful. Players change teams suddenly, and if the 2017 offseason was any indication, the level of craziness each and every summer seems to rise like the tide.
Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was especially careful with his words on Thursday as he discussed Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum. The Duke product has been on a tear, averaging 14.1 points per game to go along with an eye-popping 48.7 percent from 3-point range.
Tatum has been much better than anyone could have hoped for, especially before the new year. Boston was always going to have to rely on young players to play a big role if they wanted to contend with the Cleveland Cavaliers this year. The necessary input rose when Gordon Hayward left with an injury early in the season, and Tatum has met the challenge it gracefully.
D’Antoni was cordial about Tatum, smiling as he responded to the questions, and didn’t appear to say anything that would get him in trouble.
“I think he’s really good, first of all,” D’Antoni said after a very long pause. “I’m trying to think what I can say without it being tampering. He’s really good and for a rookie, he plays like he’s been in the league for 10 years. He’s going to be a solid if not All-Star level type player for a long, long time. There’s actually nothing he can’t do.”
The real question is what about Tatum’s situation made D’Antoni so publicly worried about tampering? Sure, D’Antoni was smiling and laughing when he gave his answer, so he’s probably not actually worried about tampering. But answering questions about rival players — especially within the context of Houston and Boston playing each other on Thursday — seems pretty normal. Perhaps the league office has given team employees a bit of a warning after the Lakers’ fiasco with George? That feels about right.
In any case, Thursday’s matchup between the Celtics and the Rockets is one of the more anticipated games of 2017. Should be fun to watch Tatum play against D’Antoni’s squad.