It’s been nearly 50 days since the NBA began a formal investigation into the Philadelphia 76ers over potential early contact and tampering. And according to Commissioner Adam Silver, the investigation is still ongoing.
The league’s inquiry revolves around James Harden’s contract reshuffling this summer. In June, Harden opted out of his $47.4 million player option and instead signed a two-year deal, $68.6 million deal with the Sixers. The Sixers were able to use the roughly $13 million difference to revamp the roster, adding PJ Tucker and Danuel House early in free agency.
But here’s the kicker: Tucker signed his contract before the Sixers re-negotiated Harden’s deal. Which raised some eyebrows in the league office and triggered the investigation.
Of note, though, is that the league’s investigation wasn’t caused by another team’s complaint. Instead, Silver noted the “tick-tock chronology around sort of when signings are permissible and the announcements of those signings and the information that came out about it,” at a press conference after the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting on September 14.
Last summer, the Milwaukee Bucks were the center of an investigation into alleged tampering during the team’s ill-fated Bogdan Bogdanovic trade. But that investigation was kicked off after another team filed its own complaint. That’s not the case here.
Commissioner Silver didn’t add much more to the investigation update. But he’s also not been the only one that’s opened up about the investigation.
Head Coach Doc Rivers Silences Tampering Allegations
Earlier in the summer, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers appeared on Vince Carter’s podcast The VC Show with Vince Carter, and discussed the league’s investigation. And Rivers was adamant that the Sixers’ actions didn’t violate any league rules.
“I guarantee you [Sixers president of basketball operations] Daryl Morey had no idea what James was going to do,” Rivers said on August 2. “I remember talking to him on the eve of when James could opt in or out, and he was like, ‘We’ve got five hours left.’ I mean, that was Daryl Morey, so that tells you he had no idea… I really believed that James was not going to opt in, that he was going to try to do a longer-term deal. But I didn’t know, I can tell you that. That’s for sure.”
It wouldn’t be the first time that Harden has seemingly left a team in the dark on his status. But contrary to past examples with the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets, this scenario would actually benefit the Sixers.
Could Harden’s Contract Be Voided by League?
If the Sixers are found to have broken league rules regarding tampering and early contact, the penalties could be substantial. A team could be fined up to $10 million, but that’s far from the stiffest punishment.
Per league rules, team executives can be suspended, draft picks revoked, and contracts nullified that violate the league’s protocols. In that case, Morey could be suspended for parts of the season, including during the trade deadline, when he’s known to be most active.
And the Sixers are already without most of their future first-round picks for the next few seasons. Any additional stripping of picks could seriously inhibit the team’s ability to develop young talent.