What sparked it? Two things. First, that a free agent in Kawhi Leonard reached out to Paul George and convinced him to leave the Thunder and join forces on the Clippers. The other was Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant deciding to head to the Nets before free agency even officially started.
Spencer Dinwiddie helped recruit Irving to Brooklyn, and he sees it as ironic that when the biggest brands — the Lakers and Knicks — don’t win the race for the biggest stars, suddenly tampering is an issue. Here’s what Dinwiddie told Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
“You mean when non-traditional powers like the Nets and the Clippers win?” Dinwiddie laughed. “What you’re saying is, if it’d been the Lakers and the Knicks that won it wouldn’t be a problem, but because it’s the Clippers and the Nets that won it’s an issue? You said it, not me.”
The suits at the league office would argue that the pushback against tampering came from owners of smaller to mid-sized markets who just want a level playing field. The Nets and Clippers are certainly not the games biggest brands, but they are in the league’s biggest markets.
Still, the teams that won are the overlooked teams in those markets. The second sons. The timing is still that when they won it was time to enforce the rules. Dinwiddie isn’t wrong about that.
This crackdown on tampering and “culture of conformity” makes a good headline… and then the massive free agent class of 2021 hits. When franchise-changing talents potentially become available — Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Bradley Beal, and more — does anybody think teams will not tamper to try to land them?