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Volume 26 No. 65
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Rapid Free Agency Signings Draw Criticism Of NBA's Tampering Rules

Butler was acquired by the Heat after the Rockets reportedly had strong interest in the All-Star
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Yesterday's opening of NBA free agency saw a "flurry of free agent commitments because teams already had predetermined deals set days or even weeks ago," and it illustrates the "worst-kept secret in the NBA, free agent tampering," according to Gary Washburn of the BOSTON GLOBE. First there was this "mumbo jumbo about official windows of time where teams had to make appointments to meet with free agents, even though most teams had already tampered and contacted prospective free agents and agreed to deals." Second is the signing announcement at 6:01pm ET, when observers are "supposed to believe" a team like the Celtics met with free agent G Kemba Walker, "offered a contract and he agreed in roughly 60 seconds" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/1). NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com's Marcus White writes considering how many players reached deals before or shortly after free agency began, it is "fair to assume" many in the league are taking free agent tampering guidelines as a "suggestion rather than a rule." White: "If it's going to be like this -- and to be absolutely clear, it's a lot more fun this way -- why not get rid of the rule altogether" (NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com, 7/1). ESPN Radio's Trey Wingo said sarcastically, "We're all amazed at just how quickly all these deals got done so fast. ... It's amazing how quick the math was done" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 7/1). This year marked the first time free agency opened at 6:00pm instead of midnight, and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said one GM told him it "impacted the action we saw." The GM said, "It's hard to do all this stuff at 1, 2, 3, 4 in the morning" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/30).

LOOKING THE OTHER WAY? USA TODAY's Andrew Joseph wrote tampering "doesn't mean anything in today's NBA" (USATODAY.com, 6/30). ESPN Radio's Mike Golic Jr. said tampering is "very clearly condoned by the way this is all structured." Golic said during the season, it can be understood why the league would not want tampering, but "once we hit this time of year, nothing about the current system is hurting anybody, and so for that, we can look the other way and see it for what it is." ESPN's Wingo said, "It's going to happen, there's really nothing you can do about it" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 7/1).

CHANGE FOR CHANGE: In DC, Jerry Brewer wrote NBA followers have "braced for seminal, this-will-change-everything moments" in '10, '14, '16, '18 and now '19, but not much "has changed, except for the desire to keep changing." While the player movement "creates potential for more frequent shifts in power among the teams, the opportunity for greater fluctuation in competitive balance comes at a cost: an addiction to change." The anticipation of another great free agent class "seems like a guilty pleasure." Brewer: "Love the drama and plot twists. But the buildup has lasted an entire year, and this time, the story lines overwhelmed even the postseason. With each class, the circus becomes more of a focus than the actual game" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/29). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote this NBA free agency "frenzy" is "lunacy." It is "lunacy that's unique to the sport, keeping basketball on the front pages and leading the sportscasts at a time when some should be catching their breath and moving on to summer relaxation" (THESTAR.com, 6/29). In Boston, Tara Sullivan asked, "Is it just me or is anyone else bothered by how much the NBA offseason overshadows its postseason?" Every headline about Kawhi Leonard’s historic title run with the Raptors was "matched with one about his inevitable free agency and potential departure" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/30).