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NBA Passes Changes Enforcing Stricter Measures to Free Agency Tampering Rules

Tyler Conway

The NBA Board of Governors approved new tampering rules that will impose stringent penalties on teams that violate existing policies.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the update Friday. NBA commissioner Adam Silver noted the measures passed unanimously, per Wojnarowski

The proposal called for an increase of the maximum fine for tampering to $10 million and gave the league the right to take away draft picks. In addition to those changes, the new rules could also allow the NBA to audit the communications between agents and players of five random teams per season.

The NBA also proposed a ban on players communicating with one another to request a trade from their current team—a seeming reaction to when Kawhi Leonard approached Paul George in July to get him to the Los Angeles Clippers.

"I think it's pointless at the end of the day to have rules that we can't enforce," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters in July. "It hurts the perception of integrity around the league if people say, 'Well, you have that rule and it's obvious that teams aren't fully complying, so why do you have it?' I think the sense in the room was we should revisit those rules."

Tampering reached a fever pitch during the 2019 free-agency period, with nearly every major deal seemingly agreed upon before or quickly after the so-called "legal" tampering period began June 30. Some deals, like Kemba Walker's pact with the Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving's with the Brooklyn Nets, were reported well before teams were supposed to be able to contact those players.

"There's a big difference between having conversations about how a team wants to build its roster, what it prioritizes in free agency and whether they have interest in your player—or having a deal done on June 20," an agent told Wojnarowski. "Both sides are in the information-gathering business; that's the nature of the job."

Enforcement of tampering rules has always been difficult. It's become increasingly so during the social media era, where reporters get their hands on information and disseminate it in an instant. While "tampering" in the offseason used to be a necessary evil everyone kept behind closed doors, it became so blatant that owners grew frustrated—particularly ones who lost major stars. 

It seems borderline impossible for the NBA to stop teams and players from tampering, regardless of how hard they try. Even taking personal devices is doing nothing to prevent NBA teams from setting up a row of burner phones like a basketball version of The Wire.

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