NBA to buckle down on tampering, kind of

Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner. Photo courtesy of Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Tampering has been around the NBA for a long time, but with information being so plentiful and speedy in today’s world, the NBA has been put on blast.

Backroom deals and agreements are front and center. The public knows where 90% of the big-name free agents are going before free agency even starts because discussions between team executives and agents have already been had. It takes someone with loose lips to leak information to a trusted media member and that’s how we find out Kemba Walker is going to be a Boston Celtic before the free agency period begins.

For me, I don’t care. And it doesn’t seem like the NBA cares too much either - or at least they haven’t. The NBA has rules against tampering now. The rules have been in place while tampering has gone on. Not much is changing with this new announcement, but the problem remains that the penalties have not been much of a deterrent and the NBA hasn’t strictly enforced those rules.

Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, recently discussed this issue and mentions compliance among NBA teams while also saying “there needs to be consequences when rules are violated.”

As Chris Mannix points out in his SI piece, this announcement from the commissioner is not likely to have a major impact. Here’s what a couple league executives had to say according to Mannix:

The NBA’s actions were met with a collective shrug. “If you use [encrypted apps] to communicate, there are no records,” said a longtime league exec. “The people they catch are the people who make stupid comments.” Added another, “Let’s see if they catch someone. Until then, teams will keep pushing the envelope. They didn’t enforce the old rules—why would anyone think they will do more with new ones?”

One solution that Mannix suggests is changing the NBA calendar. There is a lot of traction to put free agency before the draft. This would allow teams to have a better sense of their draft needs after they’ve landed (or struck out) on free agents. This change could also combat tampering incrementally by leaving less time after the season and before free agency for those backroom deals to materialize.

Mannix’ article includes a lot of I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it undertones, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the NBA is serious about the current tampering across the league. If a team is caught and draft picks are taken away then it may straighten teams’ backs, but until then, I’ll also believe it when I see it.