NBA investigating possible tampering, improper contract perks to circumvent salary cap during free agency, per reports

After concerns were raised by some of the league's owners at the annual board of governors meeting, the NBA is conducting an investigation into the timing of deals reached in free agency this summer, according to a report from ESPN. 

Considering the fact that many deals were agreed upon just minutes after free agency opened -- before which teams are not supposed to be able to negotiate deals with free agents -- some owners were concerned that tampering occurred.

From ESPN: 

After hearing concerns from owners and fielding inquiries from top agents over the past several weeks, the NBA has opened an investigation into how free agency operated this summer, multiple league sources told ESPN.

The scope of the investigation is still being determined, but sources say it will likely focus on some of the earliest reported deals on June 30 -- the first day teams and representatives for free agents are technically allowed to speak. League officials are expected to begin scheduling interviews in the coming days as they seek to gather information, sources said. There is no timetable for its completion.

More than a billion dollars in contracts were agreed to in the first 24 hours of the new league year, making it likely that negotiations had begun and in numerous cases were finalized well before the official opening of free agency.

The New York Times added that some of the specific inquiries of the investigation center around whether or not teams offered players extra perks outside of the standard contractual agreement in order to get around salary cap restrictions. 

The N.B.A. has begun an investigation into how teams handled free agency this summer, focusing on whether improper inducements were offered to players to circumvent the salary cap, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.

The issue was raised by multiple team owners at a meeting of the league's board of governors this month in Las Vegas, according to the person, who requested anonymity because of a lack of authorization to speak publicly on the subject. 

There were also multiple reports this month suggesting that Kawhi Leonard's representatives, in arranging his blockbuster move from the Toronto Raptors to the Los Angeles Clippers, had asked for perks that would violate the league's collective bargaining agreement.

The ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, citing "people in N.B.A. circles," said on the air that Leonard's uncle — Dennis Robertson (known in N.B.A. circles as "Uncle Dennis") — had asked other teams for houses, planes and guaranteed sponsorship money. Smith added, "I have no idea whether this is true or not."

Technically, the NBA could punish teams -- with fines, loss of draft picks, or even by voiding contracts -- for breaking tampering-related rules during free agency. Ultimately, though, their investigation may not result in any formal punishments for individual teams, but rather changes to the rules of how free agency is handled in the future.

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan -- speaking as the head of the labor committee -- reportedly suggested that the next CBA needs to revisit how free agency functions. One suggested option would be to move the start of free agency up to before the draft, while the possibility of allowing teams to discuss free-agent deals with available players shortly after the NBA Finals was also discussed. 

Michael Kaskey-Blomain covers the NBA for CBS Sports. He has covered the league in some capacity since 2009 for a variety of outlets including Philly.com, ESPN 97.3, and 247 Sports. Michael hails from... Full Bio

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