The NBA has opened an investigation into the Philadelphia 76ers for possible tampering and early contact centered on the franchise’s summer free agency class of James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Daniel Housesources told ESPN on Friday.
One of the central elements of the league’s investigation includes questions about Harden’s decision to turn down a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23 and take a pay cut on a new deal. of $68 million over two years, sources said. Around the league there have been questions about whether there is already a handshake agreement in place over a future contract – which would be in breach of collective bargaining rules.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has already begun fielding questions from league attorneys, sources said. The investigation should include interviews with team personnel and the organization turning over email correspondence and phone records to league investigators. Teams were not allowed to have conversations with agents or players about free agency deals before free agency opened at 6 p.m. ET on June 30.
Harden is guaranteed $33 million for the 2022-23 season and holds a player option on 2023-24 that would allow him to become a free agent and negotiate another new contract.
Harden, a 10-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA first-team guard, says he told Morey he wanted to do his part to bolster the Sixers’ roster and give them a better chance to compete for a championship – and the player option he declined last month could also give the organization the flexibility to strike deals once the season begins.
Tucker (three years, $30 million) and House (two years, $8.4 million) have agreed to the maximum number of contracts available to them under the mid-tier and semi-annual extensions. Harden, Tucker and House previously played under Morey with the Rockets.
The NBA instituted tougher penalties in such cases in 2019, including increasing the maximum fine for teams to $10 million and adding the ability to suspend team executives, forfeit draft picks and even to cancel contracts. The possibility of contracts being canceled is seen as a virtually non-existent threat.
The Milwaukee Bucks were punished with the loss of a 2022 second-round pick on tampering charges in connection with Sacramento’s restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic in 2021. In issuing this penalty, the NBA took into account that the Bucks ultimately did not acquire Bogdanovic, as he eventually signed with the Atlanta Hawks.