UPDATED by Zach Buckley on Tuesday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m. ET
On Tuesday evening, Hawks team president Bob Williams issued a statement, via Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in an attempt to distance the franchise from the letter:
The letter that has been referred to was written by one of our season ticket reps of his own volition. While certainly he is a member of our business staff, his specific reference clearly does not represent how our basketball operations or our business staff have consistently communicated about free agency. It is unfortunate that this mistake, by a single ticket rep with no ill intent, occurred.
The league has a number of possible punishments at its disposal for teams guilty of tampering which can include any combination of fines, suspensions, forfeiture of draft picks or even prohibition of that team from hiring the player being tampered with.
So Williams is just doing what's in the best interest of the organization, taking a proactive approach to escape or limit any possible sanctions.
Per Vivlamore, a league spokesman that the NBA declined comment on the situation.
--End of Update--
Per NBA policy, that could be a giant no-no (via Vivlamore):
The Hawks may have violated the NBA’s anti-tampering policy by mentioning Dwight Howard and Chris Paul by name in a recent letter sent to prospective ticket buyers.
The letter, obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was on team letterhead and headlined “Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.” It began with the statement: “The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up. With massive cap space, 4 draft picks, and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality.”
That wasn't all.
"This is your opportunity to get on board before its (sic) too late," the letter said. "Once we solidify our signings there will be no seats left,” the letter added.
First thing's first: If you're going to be bold, remember to use "it's" instead of "its." That aside, you've got to love Atlanta's confidence.
The letter is written as if Howard and/or Paul have already signed on the dotted line, and that dotted line was provided by the Hawks. Unless the Hawks know something we don't, that is not the case, nor have either of the two given any inclination that it could be the case.
Should the Hawks ultimately be fined for attempting to assure their fans that the days of mediocrity are behind them, this wouldn't be the team's first brush with the league's anti-tampering policies.
"If somebody came to us tomorrow and said you can have LeBron for max money and it puts you in the luxury tax, I’d do it in a heartbeat," he said in May of 2010 (via Vivlamore). "But am I going to do that for [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas? Am I going to do it for Jermaine O’Neal? I don’t think so…”
Which player will the Hawks land this offseason?
Gearon was fined $25,000 for
telling the cold, hard truth his comments. Now another tampering-related sanction could be on the way for the Hawks.
Discussions pertaining to other teams' players is forbidden. And it's frowned upon by David Stern and, well, the team those players play for. I doubt the Clippers appreciate the letter. The Los Angeles Lakers probably aren't fans either. Soon enough, we'll know how the league truly feels, likely in the form of a hefty fine.
But that shouldn't deter the Hawks. They're apparently confident in their ability to lure at least one of these two superstars to Atlanta.
Consider this, then, a down payment on the max contract they plan to offer either of them. The same contract few people outside of Atlanta actually think will be signed.