The NBA will investigate how free agency operated this summer, the result of hearing for several weeks from owners with concerns and top agents with questions, ESPN.com reported Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), citing multiple unidentified league sources.
The focus of the investigation will be on some of the earliest reported deals on June 30, the first day teams and free agents’ representatives technically were allowed to speak.
In the first 24 hours after the 6 p.m. ET start to free agency, more than $1 billion in contracts were agreed upon, the length and value of the deals raising questions about how they could’ve been completed so quickly if the parties hadn’t been in contact previously to discuss contract details.
Per the report, NBA officials are expected to start scheduling interviews, but the scope of the investigation and its timetable remain unclear.
Although it’s rare, the league could go as far as docking teams draft picks or even voiding contracts as its severest forms of punishment for breaking free agency rules. More likely, a team or teams could be fined.
From a perception standpoint, there also is the issue of whether players circumvented league rules against contacting one another before the start of free agency. That’s stickier for the NBA because it previously hasn’t punished players for de facto tampering because of the difficulty of monitoring player-to-player communication.
Most noteworthy this free agent season, NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, a pending free agent, and Paul George, under contract with the Thunder, appeared to work together in engineering that both would end up with the Clippers.
The bottom line: The NBA conceivably could end up handing out no punishment for rules broken during this summer’s free agent season but could use the information gathered in its investigation to change those rules in the future.