Last Friday, the board of governors of the NBA unanimously decided that changes in the league were needed. The governors are on a mission to clamp down on how clubs deal with salary caps and have introduced a series of measures designed to prevent teams from circumventing or creatively bypassing the caps to try and level the playing field. However, the odds of clubs actually adhering to the rules, without finding some new loophole to exploit, are slim to none.
Teams that are found to be in violation of the new rules can lose draft picks, have executives temporarily banned, find contracts voided or be fined up to $10 million (the fine used to be $5 million). Rules have already been in place for some time meant to make salary caps legitimate, but some organizations have found crafty ways to get around the limits in order to attract the best talent.
“We had, I think, a very healthy discussion on those issues,” Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, said after Friday’s meeting. “Certainly the provisions passed unanimously, and there was a strong view, I think, of every single person in the room that we need to ensure that we’re creating a culture of compliance in this league and that our teams want to know that they’re competing on a level playing field and frankly don’t want to feel disadvantaged if they are adhering to our existing rules.”
This past summer, there were some deals that appeared questionable ahead of the launch of the free agency period. Whereas negotiations were supposed to get started at 6:01 ET on June 30, questions surfaced about certain free agents, including Kawhi Leonard, and the possibility that teams had started their recruiting efforts earlier, and offered more incentives, than allowed.
Teams are now also going to have to keep communications they have with agents for a year. The league has the ability to choose five teams and their communications to audit and can also seize communication devices, such as phones and computers, if they determine that an organization tried to break the rules.
“I’m not sure I allayed everyone’s concerns, but I will say it’s my job to create an appropriate amount of tension in that area,” Silver said. “Obviously, if people felt that they were absolutely free and clear to communicate in certain ways, you wouldn’t be addressing the consequences notion of improper activity.”
Some teams and their owners aren’t exactly thrilled about the changes. While the vast majority are willing to play by the rules, some of the heavier hitters would be willing to swallow the fine, even if it meant breaking the bank to cover the $10-million penalty. Other punishments, such as the voiding of a contract, has its own drawbacks, both from a league and a legal standpoint, that some owners would love to challenge in court – they’re always looking for a fight.
Some executives have already indicated that they might consider moving away completely from written conversations, whether they be email, chat services, text messages, etc. That’s part of the reason the changes were unanimously approved.
“I don’t think [Silver] should have any right to get into my phone,” said one GM. “I wish my owner would vote no, but I doubt he will. You’ll only make yourself a target for investigation if you do.”
By saying yes to the changes, executives and string-pullers can figure out other ways to keep their squads at the top of the boards. Some people are simply built that way – winning at any cost.
On a different note, but out of the same board of governors meeting from Friday, the governors approved a rule change that now makes it a requirement that teams report their starting lineups earlier than before. The previous limit was set at ten minutes before tipoff, but that has been pushed back to 30 minutes. After that, changes can be made in the event of a last minute injury or some other legitimate reason.