On Friday, Adam Silver stood behind a podium in New York and put NBA teams on notice. Tampering, an issue the league has effectively shrugged off until now, will be investigated and met with severe penalties. Fines will be increased. Suspending executives, taking draft picks and voiding contracts are all on the table.
The NBA will no longer turn a blind eye to tampering, the commish said.
OK … good luck.
Credit Silver with doing something. NBA free agency had become a joke. Consider the most recent round. Officially, teams were allowed to start speaking to free agents at 6 p.m. on June 30th. Yet, amazingly, minutes into the free agent moratorium, dozens of deals—including those of some notable names—were done. The brazenness of tampering, which has been going on for years, stirred something in NBA owners, who urged Silver to take action.
“I think there was a long, involved discussion about what the appropriate tension is that's necessary to ensure compliance, and that means there needs to be consequences when rules are violated,” Silver said. “I'd say that a lot of what we talked about is work we've done over the summer to learn best practices when it comes to compliance. That includes random aspects of audits. It includes record keeping on behalf of our teams. It requires appropriate processes in place to ensure compliance. It includes ensuring that there is a culture, as I said, of compliance at the teams. And that includes certification. That means that the governors of the teams, that the heads of basketball operations, have to be certified that they are complying with our rules.”
Silver continued: “There's not much more I can share with you at this point, and not because I'm withholding information from you. We listened to our teams. We heard their concerns. We said we would go back and, in essence, come up with a framework in which we would discuss with our teams before we implemented it and recognize the balance, again, of their privacy concerns with our need to ensure compliance. At some point there will be more information available, but the league has additional work to do in that area before we, in essence, promulgate the specific rules around compliance.”
Got that? In reality, the league didn’t offer sweeping change. The NBA was already armed with most of these tools. In 2000, the league busted the Timberwolves for cutting a backroom deal with Joe Smith, where Smith would sign a series of short, cap-friendly deals and be rewarded with a rich one at the end of it. The NBA fined Minnesota $3.5 million, docked them four first round picks and suspended owner Glen Taylor, with GM Kevin McHale officially taking a leave of absence.