The NBA has opened an investigation into the Philadelphia 76ers for potential tampering regarding the team’s offseason free-agent singings of James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr., according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Harden’s decision to turn down his $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season and re-sign at a lower number is at the center of the investigation as it afforded the Sixers the cap space necessary to sign Tucker and House.
One of the central elements of the league’s probe includes questions on Harden’s decision to decline a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23 and take a pay cut on a new two-year, $68 million deal, sources said. Around the league, there have been questions about whether there’s already a handshake agreement in place on a future contract — which would be in violation of collective bargaining rules.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has already begun answering questions from league attorneys, sources said. The investigation is expected to include interviews with team personnel and the organization turning over electronic correspondence and phone records to league investigators. Teams weren’t allowed to have conversations with agents or players on free agency deals prior to the opening of free agency at 6 p.m. ET on June 30.
If the Sixers are ultimately found guilty of tampering they could face penalties including fines, the loss of draft picks, or the suspension of executives. Last year the league docked the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat each a second-round pick for tampering regarding free agents Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry. Perhaps a similar punishment is on the horizon for Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s interest in Tucker, specifically, was reported weeks before the onset of free agency. Sixers center Joel Embiid even mentioned Tucker by name when discussing the type of player the Sixers needed to add after Tucker’s Heat eliminated them in the Eastern Conference semifinals in May.
“You look at someone like P.J. Tucker. Great player, but it’s not about him knocking down shots. It’s about what he does, whether it’s on the defensive end or rebounding the ball,” Embiid said. “You look at, obviously, defensively, he plays with so much energy, believes that he can get from point A to point B, and he believes that no one can beat him. And he’s tough. He’s just physical, and he’s tough.”
The Sixers got Embiid the guy he wanted, but it might ultimately cost the team. The result of the league’s investigation should be revealed in the coming weeks,