Just under a week ago, the NBA announced that the Philadelphia 76ers are being investigated for possible tampering with their off-season free agency moves.
The tampering would have been carried out with respect to the contracts handed over to James Harden, PJ Tucker and Daniel House.
For Tucker and House, it’s a less serious accusation that seems to happen every year.
Agreements are resolved before teams and players can legally start talking.
With Harden, it’s a form of tampering that the league takes seriously.
The NBA has opened an investigation into the 76ers for potential early contact and tampering, confirmed by @rich_hofmann.
The investigation focuses on the 76er’s free agency deals with James Harden, PJ Tucker and Daniel House. https://t.co/1Jbu7C9vAV
– The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) July 30, 2022
The 76ers are under investigation due to the pay cut Harden has taken for next season.
Harden accepted a $ 68.6 million two-year deal after giving up his player option for next season.
His player option would have paid him $ 47 million and his new contract would have paid him just $ 33 million.
That $ 14 million pay cut is what allowed the 76ers to sign Tucker and House.
Competing teams have wondered if Harden took the pay cut now with a handshake deal for more money next offseason.
This is something that is illegal in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Doc Rivers said it’s fake and the organization is cooperating with the investigation.
The 76er situation
Tucker and House’s situation is not unique.
Each year, the teams announce agreements with free agents within minutes of the official opening of the free agency.
How could this be possible if they were supposedly not allowed to be in contact until then?
All 30 NBA teams have tampered with in one way or another, but the league only punishes the most sensational (or highest-profile) cases.
Harden’s situation is slightly different.
Unless Morey has sent a message, email, or letter to Harden explicitly stating that he has a maximum contract waiting for him next offseason if he takes a pay cut this offseason, it will be hard to prove.
Harden has stated his desire to win, so maybe he really took a pay cut to increase his chances of winning.
It’s also technically a two-year deal, so it took more security with the extra year.
John Hollinger of The Athletic also raised an interesting point about this style of tampering.
🚨🚨🚨 NEW EPISODE 🚨🚨🚨
Hollinger and Duncan NBA Show with @NateDuncanNBA
* Speaking of Tampering and Bogdanovic
* What warriors do without Klay
* What happens with Harden
* And all the winners and losers of the draft
Sign up: https://t.co/Qjy4nHTLKE
– John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) November 20, 2020
“Where does the League care about pushing the limits?”
Harden is under investigation this year, but no action has been taken against the LA Clippers with Nic Batum or the Milwaukee Bucks with Bobby Portis.
Both players entered into a one-year contract below their market value in 2021 and then signed again for their maximum value this off-season.
If a punishment is awarded for Harden, the 76ers will almost certainly raise the question of these two cases.
After a fruitful offseason, the 76ers are now in a unique situation.
And one that could shape the future of the NBA free agency.