In 2015, the NBA set new rules that prohibited team personnel from talking publicly about players’ potential offers. The move came as restricted free agency was in full swing and the league threatened violators with possible legal action for loose lips.
Fast-forward to today and the NBA is once again looking to clamp down on who says what to whom and where, implementing new rules that are designed to thwart attempts to circumvent salary caps or figure out ways around the restrictions. Just like with the previous no-talking rules, the recent changes will most likely not find much support.
Despite being in place for four years, the no-talking rule was just violated by the Milwaukee Bucks, resulting in a large $50,000 fine. It all stems from what many would consider an off-handed remark on the part of GM Jon Horst, and the absurdity of the fine shows how arbitrary the league can be.
Horst was participating in a televised town hall on September 12 when the topic of Giannis Antetokounmpo came up. Horst let it slip that the team was going to offer power forward a supermax contract next July worth $253.8 million, which is going to be the largest in the history of the NBA.
“Giannis, a year from now, will be eligible for a supermax extension,” Horst said. “At that time, of course, he will be offered the supermax extension. We all fully believe that if we put the right things in place and give Giannis the right opportunities — he loves Milwaukee, he loves the state of Wisconsin and I think he will be a Buck a long time.”
The problem with Horst’s comments is that the league specifically says that team officials are not allowed to commit to any supermax contract unless the player has been on the court for at least seven seasons – the first-round draft pick only has six under his belt.
However, Horst could have just as easily got his point across without even having to mention the words supermax or contract. A statement as generic as, “A player of Antetokounmpo’s caliber deserves to receive exceptional monetary compensation and a team such as the Bucks would be foolish to not offer a three-time All-Star and NBA MVP as much as it could to keep his skills.”
That statement would not have been in violation, in the legal sense of the rules, but would have definitely gotten the point across – the Bucks would be willing to pay almost anything it could to hang onto one of the most formidable players in the league.
This is what will happen with the new rules established by the NBA. Sure, there will be those who follow the rulebook and toe the line, but there will also be those who look at the rules the same way they look at basketball – as a game. And games are meant to be won at any cost.
There are major concerns about how the NBA plans on enforcing its new no-tampering rules, especially since it expects teams to store communications with agents for a year. The league has stated that it will have the authority to seize equipment as part of an investigation into potential wrongdoing and that it has right to confiscate cell phones, tablets, laptops and any other device capable of being used for electronic conversation. This isn’t going to go over well with a lot of team executives and owners and these are most likely already moving conversations to back alleys and seedy diners like mob bosses from last century.
Not much will change with the new rules – there will be the occasional slap on the wrist so the NBA can show that it’s still in charge, but establishing the new policies most likely won’t have any major impact on the way organizations look to attract top talent in order to create a winning squad.