While with the Rockets, James Harden recruited Clippers star Chris Paul throughout the 2016-17 season despite Houston not having obvious max cap space. Then-Rockets general manager Daryl Morey executed a complex series of transactions to set up a trade for Paul, who opted in with L.A. contingent on the trade, and even got Paul to waive most of his trade bonus – all before free agency officially opened.
Morey now runs the 76ers, who just traded for Harden from the Nets.
Finally, the Nets – in the midst of championship contention – became convinced enough that Harden would leave for Philadelphia in free agency this summer that they traded him to another title contender while they could still get a strong return.
Some teams were reportedly readying call on the NBA to investigate the 76ers-Harden connection. Now that the deal is done, tampering chatter has only intensified.
But Nets general manager Sean Marks said accusations won’t come from him.
Tampering? Unfortunately, the world we live in right now, so much of this is being played out in the media. And so much of this is – whether it’s scuttlebutt, hearsay and so forth – it’s just the nature of the beast. It’s just the nature of the world we’re in. I’m not going to start making accusations at everybody else. Again, this particular set of circumstances was played out in the media far earlier than any conversations were ever had. So, I don’t know. Again, if this is where it ends up, that’ll be completely up to the league to look into these set of circumstances.
Many tampering complaints are silly. Who cares whether a no-longer-playing team talks to an impending free agent on another no-longer-playing team before free agency officially opens? That dead period of the offseason is ripe to be exploited without undermining the integrity of the NBA. The bigger problem is the league arbitrarily enforcing those rules.
But this wasn’t that. The Nets just had a potential championship season disrupted by a star wanting out. If he was coaxed by another team in the middle of the season, isn’t that the type of tampering nearly everyone wanted eliminated?
To give Marks credit (credit?), at least he’s not being hypocritical. Kyrie Irving was reportedly set to sign with Brooklyn weeks before 2019 free agency opened. Really, the deal might have been prearranged months before that. There have also been hints of the Nets committing more-serious salary-cap circumvention.