NBA’s Toothless Punishment Of Bulls And Heat Prove The League Doesn’t Really Care About Tampering | What The NBA Should Do Is Lean In

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As reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA’s four-month investigation into the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat revealed tampering in the signings of Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively.

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Chicago and Miami will lose their next available second-round pick after the league concluded that the teams had impermissible discussions with representatives of the players ahead of the beginning of free agency on Aug. 2.

Snooze.

In all the insane activity that is the NBA free agency period, all the league could determine is that the Bulls and Heat spoke to agents prior to free agency? Are we supposed to believe only two teams of the league’s 30 do this? Really?

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The NBA’s position on tampering is born out of the frustrations of small-market franchises and their inability to keep their drafted talent. So Adam Silver and the NBA enacted punitive measures to curtail big markets from swooping in and gobbling up small market free agents.

They floated the word tampering and it became the bogeyman.

Team execs were not allowed to communicate with players’ representatives outside of the free agency window when a player was already under contract with another team. The idea that the NBA could police that is laughable.

In case you didn’t know, tampering happens 24/7 in the NBA. Team execs and player agents are talking all the time, regardless of what team to which the players they rep are signed. Players also talk to each other about playing together and joining different franchises.

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So either the NBA would have to go full CIA and monitor every form of communication by anyone remotely associated with the league or they need to give up on the idea of policing this — because these weak punishments are clearly not having the desired effect.

In a statement, the Heat said, “While we disagree, we accept the league’s decision.”

The Bulls released a statement, saying: “We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season.”

Honestly, the NBA should pull a 180 and go in the opposite direction. Forget about policing and punishing teams for tampering; nobody cares.

Instead, let it be known when players under contract are being courted by other teams.

The NBA is a television show, whether you realize it or not. The games matter but they don’t drive interest in nearly the same way as they used to 20 to 30 years ago. You know what does? All the off-court drama, beefs, etc. The league should lean into that.

Somehow, wink-wink, Woj and the Athletic’s Shams Charania know of every draft pick, transaction or piece of news in a league with over 450 players before anyone else does. Those Woj bombs and Shams bombs (is that a thing for Shams?) drive the conversation on NBA Twitter.

The league loves social media and is already heavily partnered with Twitter; run with it and let the news breakers drop all the gems. Peel back the curtain for the fans.

Every time a player was seen having dinner or at the club with someone from another team, fans would explode. Not to mention it will generate tons of content for the media platforms.

Allow players to talk openly about possibly playing for another franchise or with their friends somewhere else with no threat of punishment. This would be terrific theatre.

Imagine agents on podcasts talking about what team they just spoke to in regards to player X, and then the current team having to react? It would be chaos. Guess what? That sells.

Too much?

Maybe a little. But there needs to be a better alternative than pretending to care about something that the league can’t police.


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