Summer in the NBA is always the most interesting time in the league. Free agency lets us see where players have not only decided to land, but which have schemed together in order to play with each other.
The term “preagency” has been coined to mark the period in which teams and players work out deals before free agency officially opens, and well before the moratorium ends.
It’s been thought that these rules have been circumvented as part of a gentlemen’s agreement between all teams with equal ability to navigate around the written rules. But according to a new report, several team owners are upset about the way things are going in the player empowerment era.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst reported on the NBA’s Board of Governor’s meeting this week, saying that the league has even opened an investigation into what went on this summer in terms of potential tampering.
Within days, the league opened an investigation centered on the timing of some of the earliest reported free-agency deals on June 30, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN.com. The scope of that investigation is developing. It is expected to include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees, sources say.
The league has the power to punish teams it finds to be guilty of tampering ahead of June 30 at 6 p.m. Eastern Time — the first minute that teams are allowed to speak with representatives of free agents. It also might seek information on the timing of negotiations so that any revised free-agency calendar might better align with what is actually happening.
The investigation followed a tense owners meeting, which multiple sources described to ESPN. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, speaking as the head of the labor committee, discussed the possible need to revisit free-agency rules in the next collective bargaining agreement, sources said.
I have two thoughts about this.
First, even if something does come of this, the fine has to be puny. Adam Silver has not strayed on the disciplinarian side the way David Stern did — much to his credit — and any reprimand is unlikely to satisfy upset parties.
Second, there will definitely be sweeping changes in the next CBA. So much has changed since the last lockout, and the money has gotten so big it’s inevitable that people want to make things better for their side. The players got themselves in a hole since 2011. They mishandled the cap jump in 2016, and the max contract rules didn’t create a rising tide that floated all boats. Star players benefited, but low-level guys are even more disproportionately compensated.
This stuff seems like the most boring part of the league, but in reality it’s what makes everything tick.
I won’t be surprised if the NBA levies tampering charges against one or even several teams. I’d be surprised if the league did much about it, though.