Doc Rivers dismisses tampering charges against 76ers, “it’s not true”

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The NBA is investigating whether the Philadelphia 76ers are guilty of tampering in the case of James Harden‘s contract this offseason, when he opted out of his $47.4 million final season and re-signed for $33 million for the year (two years, $68.6 million total), giving the team roster space to get P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.

Doc Rivers shrugged off the tampering charge talking to Vince Carter on ESPN’s “The VC Show: podcast (hat tip CBS Sports):

“You handle it, because it’s not true. Honestly, when James [Harden] did this and said this … first of all, we didn’t know what we were going to do with the money we were getting. And listen, James won, too, because James could’ve opted into a one-year deal. Instead, we gave him (two) years. And so both parties won in a lot of ways. Listen, it worked out for us, it worked out for James…

“I guarantee you Daryl Morey had no idea what James was going to do. I remember talking to him on the eve of when James could opt in or out, and he was like, ‘We’ve got five hours left.’ I mean, that was Daryl Morey, so that tells you he had no idea… I really believed that James was not going to opt in, that he was going to try to do a longer-term deal. But I didn’t know, I can tell you that. That’s for sure.”

What else did you expect Rivers to say? If you’re skeptical the 76ers had no idea how this would play out, welcome to (the very large) club.

Harden opting out of his contract created cap space for the 76ers to sign Tucker for three years at the midlevel exception contract (a deal announced about one minute into free agency) and bring in Danuel House. Harden said he asked Morey for “what was left” of the space the 76ers had under the hard cap, $33 million this season, and re-signed for that plus a second year (with a player option). Some around the league saw that as a “wink-wink” deal where Harden will be rewarded with a big payday next summer.

If Harden opting out and re-signing were pre-arranged, it would violate league tampering rules. The league is also investigating the Knicks for tampering around the signing of Jalen Brunson as a free agent.

Even if the league does find the teams guilty, the “punishment” likely only will be the loss of a second-round pick. This is not the NFL.