If you thought it unusual that so many deals were already consummated by the time the NBA’s free agency season began June 30, you can image how NBA commissioner Adam Silver felt.
Silver was quite upset because he instinctively knew what had been going on. Players, agents and teams had been negotiating before the start of free agency, agreeing to deals, trying to manipulate trades, attempting to pair players up. Such action is illegal according to the current collective bargaining agreement.
So Silver promised he’d do something to curb this behavior. And it seems the NBA has figured out what it wants to do.
According to a memo obtained by ESPN, the NBA is proposing fines up to $10 million for teams choosing to break the rules.
This is wonderful to hear. It’s clear everyone who has been involved in this type of behavior is more concerned with enrichment than the welfare of the league. The reason there’s an “official” start to free agency is to prevent certain teams, especially those in the larger markets, from getting a head start with available players.
It’s all about a balance of power, an effort to at least conceptually level the playing field so that Indiana and Sacramento can have an equal chance to land superstars as the Celtics, Lakers, Clippers, Nets and Knicks.
Look, it didn’t require a degree in sports administration to determine the Lakers, Celtics and Nets began working early to land Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.
News of what the Davis deal to the Lakers looked like, and the extent of the contracts given to Durant, Irving and Walker, were public knowledge days before negotiations were even scheduled to begin.
The league informed member teams last Friday about the proposed fine. And the memo was clear in its direction, telling teams it knew league rules were being regularly broken as it related to salary-cap concerns, player tampering and free agency discussions.
Among other items suggested by the league:
A requirement that a team report within 24 hours any instance of an agent or player representative asking for a benefit not allowed under the salary cap or collective bargaining agreement.
A requirement preserve communications with players, their teams and agents for one year.
New ways for teams and team employees to anonymously report rules violations or tampering.
Prohibiting players from inducing players under contract to request trades.
A proposal to conduct investigatory audits of five randomly selected teams each year to assess compliance with system rules.
In addition, the league has requested top team officials pledge they have not dealt with free agents before allowed.
As an example, if a team agrees to an unauthorized deal with a player, it can be fined up to $6 million with the player facing a $250,000 fine. The league also is considering forfeiture or transfer of draft picks, suspensions, voiding of contracts and prohibiting teams from hiring the person they tampered with.
The NBA has previously been unable to do anything about free agent tampering. It’s continued to be one of the league biggest problems. It came to the surface again in July when over $1 billion in deals were announced within the first two hours of the start of the free agent season.
The league’s board of governors will be voting on these rules changes later this week. If approved, fines will be raised exponentially to match the 600% increase in league revenue and the 1,100% increase in franchise value since 1996, the last time the fine structure was adjusted.
“It’s pointless, at the end of the day, to have rules that we can’t enforce,” NBA Silver said in July.