NBA Fighting Back Against Tampering

Tampering is Bad for Competitive Balance

With the player movement going on in the NBA the past few seasons, many people have felt that tampering rules have basically been non existent. That feeling is understandable, especially with the way some of the teams in the NBA choose to conduct their business. With that in mind the league has sought to raise the amount it can fine teams and players for breaking the rules. The $10-million-dollar figure is a quite an increase and will make most teams think twice.

For better context on how much of an increase this would represent, we only need to look back at the case of Donald Sterling. When Sterling was found to have made racist remarks that ultimately resulted in a lifetime ban back in 2014, he was only fined $2.5 million dollars. That amount represents the most an individual can be fined under the NBA constitution.

Here is the rule as per the constitution:

“The Commissioner shall, wherever there is a rule for which no penalty is specifically fixed for violation thereof, have the authority to fix such penalty as in the Commissioner’s judgment shall be in the best interests of the Association. Where a situation arises which is not covered in the Constitution and By-Laws, the Commissioner shall have the authority to make such a decision, including the imposition of a penalty, as in his judgment shall be in the best interests of the Association. The penalty that may be assessed under the preceding two sentences may include, without limitation, a fine, suspension, and/or the forfeiture or assignment of draft choices. No monetary penalty fixed under this provision shall exceed $2,500,000.”

A Closer Look at Proposed Changes

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has shown himself to be a forward thinker and he mentioned the fact that there’s no point in having rules that can’t be enforced. With that in mind, the league sent a memo to teams on Friday in regards to the proposed fines. In the memo, the league mentioned they were looking to address the “widespread perception that many of the league’s rules are being broken on a frequent basis.” The memo addresses the issue of tampering, salary-cap and inappropriate free-agency discussions.

Something much more specific in the memo states that the NBA wants every new player contract to be accompanied by a signed from ownership and front office staff that no tampering was involved. Teams would also be required to keep records of all its communications with its players and their agents for at least a year. Also at least five teams per season would be randomly audited to make sure that everyone is in compliance.

There’s also one other rule that seems like it would be almost impossible to enforce. This rule would “prohibit players from inducing other players still under contract to request trades”. Unless the NBA plans on going through a player’s personal phone, it’s unclear how they could enforce this. There’s also the fact that players can just have face to face conversations that the league could not possible do anything about. While all of these rules seem great in theory, in practice they won’t change much for players. The bond between NBA players is much stronger than ever. Most of these guys grew up playing with or against each other since high school.

The Best Players Will Still Have the Power

While these rules will make tampering more difficult, it will still happen. The increase in fine is a great deterrent but teams make more money than ever. Since the current fines for rules violations were introduced back in 1996, the value of NBA franchises have seen a 1,100% increase. So the proposed increase was actually something that was overdue.

There’s also the fact that NBA superstars don’t need to talk to a team to know they are interested. Even though the Clippers were one of the most blatant rule breakers last season in terms of tampering, Kawhi Leonard knew they wanted him. He didn’t need Lawrence Frank randomly showing up at Raptors games or Doc Rivers complimenting him to know they were interested. He’s one of the best players in the world, everyone wants him.

The NBA can’t just sit back and do nothing so the intention is good but some of these new rules seem a bit short sighted in terms of how they would be applied. In essence the NBA is doing their best to create an even playing field. The problem is when some teams are in Los Angeles, Miami and New York while others are in Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Milwaukee, the playing field will never be level. The NBA board of governors has until Friday to make a decision.