NBA strips 76ers of draft picks for free agent tampering


P.J. Tucker

P.J. Tucker
Photo: Getty Images

While the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles continue along championship tracks in their respective seasons, the 76ers, on the other hand, seem destined to waste another precious year of Joel Embiid’s prime. After a slow start to this NBA season, the Sixers have finally crawled back to .500. Now the league has announced that it is taking draft picks away from the team for talking to free agents P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. before the free agent signing period.

This punishment for the Sixers is interesting as the allegations of Philly tampering prior to the signings of Tucker and House mostly went under the radar. These allegations weren’t nearly as publicized as those of the New York Knicks and guard Jalen Brunson. Everybody knew he was headed to New York months before it could officially happen. That investigation is still “ongoing,” and we’ve begun a new season.

Sixers President Daryl Morey is no stranger to the world of tampering. He’s been fined in the past, but those times were regarding superstars, not journeymen role players. Morey was fined in 2020 and 2021 for Tweeting about Stephen Curry and James Harden. The Curry tweet was before he signed an extension with the Golden State Warriors and Harden while he was still a member of the Rockets after Morey had departed Houston.

The NBA needs to figure out if they actually care about tampering or only want to enforce it whenever it suits them. Most teams are likely tampering in one way or another, and players themselves are constantly speaking publicly about players from other teams. Some team executives are clearly engaging in the same behavior. Fining a team for mentioning a player is silly and always has been, especially if you’re going to pick and choose when to enforce the rule.

Philly has enough issues this year as it has already headed down the same road of wasting another year with Embiid. Who knows how many years Embiid has left at his peak? Once Morey moved heaven and earth to acquire James Harden, the Sixers’ window officially closed. Like Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook, having Harden doesn’t exactly equal winning championships. Irving won in Cleveland, but he was alongside LeBron James.

While Philly only lost a couple of second-rounders, you never know when you’ll hit on one of those late picks in the draft. Losing those picks over so-called tampering is probably more irritating than anything.

Attempting to stop any unfair advantage in signing players is understandable. Still, in a players league dealing with free agency, players will move however they feel, regardless of the rules. Teams will continue to contact players via back channels for months and even years before they officially become free agents.

Commissioner Adam Silver needs to drop this charade about tampering because nobody cares. The teams bound by this rule don’t even care and will continue to conduct themselves in the same manner when it comes to attracting free agents. These organizations are trying to win (minus the OKC Thunder), and they’ll do whatever it takes to put themselves in a position to get that done.



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