Earlier this month, LeBron James told ESPN that it would be “amazing” and “incredible” if the Lakers could somehow acquire five-time all-star Anthony Davis, who is under contract with the Pelicans through at least next season. This set off a bit of a hullabaloo about tampering, with unidentified small-market executives complaining about how they’re always at a disadvantage when it comes to retaining the NBA’s biggest stars.
“It’s New Orleans’ problem today, and a problem with a different player tomorrow for the rest of us,” an Eastern Conference GM told ESPN. “It’s open season on small markets and our players.”
On Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski reports, the NBA gingerly put its foot down in a memo reminding teams about the league’s anti-tampering rules. And while it didn’t mention James by name, it sure sounds as if it was at least partly directed at him.
“Employment contracts are to be respected and conduct that interferes with contractual employment relationships is prohibited,” the memo reads, per Wojnarowski.
“This principle is particularly important in today’s media environment, where any actions or comments relating to potential player movement receive immediate and widespread public attention. Teams should be entitled to focus their efforts on the competition this season with the players they have under contract, without having to divert attention or resources to conduct or speculation regarding the potential destinations of those players in future seasons once their contracts expire.”
In the weeks since James’s initial comment about Davis, the Lakers star has insisted he did nothing wrong.
“Come on, guys; this is not rocket science. These are great players. Absolutely, I would love to play with a lot of great players,” he told reporters Friday. “That is just who I am. People get caught up in bunches sometimes when they wish they could control what you say, and they can’t control me, at all. And I play by the rules.”
He also promised that he would not stop trying to get the league’s best players to join him in Los Angeles.
“I’ve always recruited,” James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview that aired at halftime of the Lakers' game against the Warriors on Christmas Day. “I’ve been trying to get guys to come play with me since, like, 2007. I’ve got rejected a lot. But I’ve also have not got rejected a lot.”
One-off comments by James or any other NBA player will not result in any punishment, the league said in the memo, but “if there are other aggravating factors — such as sustained public recruiting or evidence that the player making such a comment is coordinating with his team — then there may be a basis for a tampering violation.”
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