In the wake of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James publicly endorsing pursuit of a trade for Anthony Davis, several small-market general managers are privately expressing outrage over what they believe is the NBA’s unwillingness to enforce the league’s tampering rules.
New Orleans has had to spend the past week answering questions – both internally and externally – about the future of a player who’s under contract through the 2019-20 season.
Pelicans management, coaches, players and families have been left to deal with the implications of James’ powerful and peerless platform – and the fallout that comes with it.
Still, teams counter that the NBA’s refusal to sanction James and the Lakers is condoning the elevation of a circus-like environment that GMs believe the league should be working to lessen.
League executives contend that the NBA needs to start holding players responsible for public comments the way they generally do owners and management.
” The NBA has fined the Lakers $500,000 and $50,000 for organizational tampering over the past two years, but has resisted punishing players.
The NBA views player comments differently from those of management and suggests it only acts to level punishment with evidence of the team’s involvement in a player violation.
In general, absent evidence of team coordination or other aggravating factors, it is not tampering when a player makes a comment about his interest in playing with another team’s player.
” What has become more frustrating to small-market executives is that outside interference is no longer restricted to players on the brink of free agency, but some stars – like Davis – two years away from it.
“Interference is as bad as tampering – maybe worse in this case,” one Eastern Conference GM told ESPN. “This becomes a campaign meant to destabilize another organization, install chaos and unrest that make it harder to keep an environment that the player would want to stay in.
We all get that it’s a players’ league, but there are rules on the books that they need to follow, too.
” There’s a broad belief among smaller-market GMs that the league doesn’t only condone the public wooing of star players toward big markets, but it encourages it.
“There is no confidence among most of us – if not all of us – that the league cares about protecting our interests,” one small-market GM told ESPN. “It’s hard enough already to hold onto the kind of players we need to try and win with – but [the league] doesn’t do anything to help.