The NBA Unanimously Approved Sweeping Tampering Reforms

This past summer, the NBA moved its free agency moratorium period from midnight on July 1 to 6 p.m. on June 30 so teams and players could start negotiating at a more reasonable hour. As it turns out, it seems teams and players were in talks well before the moratorium opened.

Who could have guessed that?

The fact of the matter is teams and players have been violating the league’s tampering rules for decades (except for Charlotte Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak, apparently), but this year they were more open about it than they’ve ever been. For example, the first verbal commitment of the free agency season came on June 29, when All-Star guard Kemba Walker agreed to a four-year, max contract with the Boston Celtics. From then on, the floodgates opened.

In an effort to avoid the same thing happening next season, the NBA Board of Governors has passed a new, stricter set of tampering rules, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The new provisions will allow the league to suspend executives, void contracts and take away draft picks, Silver said in a news conference in New York.

According to Silver, the provisions passed unanimously.

There was some controversy over one provision, though. Under these new rules, the league is permitted to randomly “audit” teams and players by searching their devices.


Will these new rules be effective? That remains to be seen, but one league executive has already expressed doubt.

The last sentence of the above quote is crucial to the league’s understanding of what the actual ramifications of tampering are, which, in actuality, are minimal league-wide. If everyone in the league has been tampering during the regular season for years, hasn’t the playing field been level? And if that’s true, isn’t the actual problem the relationship between a team and its star players? For example, if the Hornets made Walker feel like they were committed to building a contender around him, wouldn’t it have been harder for him to leave to Boston?

These new rules might work for a bit, but unless teams start figuring why it is star players keep leaving their team, they’re going to run into this problem again eventually and they won’t have tampering to blame.

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