NBA officials issued a memorandum to all teams on Tuesday warning them against communicating with Chris Paul or his representatives about a possible trade. According to the memorandum, such communications would be a violation of league rules unless the New Orleans Hornets authorized them.
The memorandum also lists possible punishment for having such communications: "[S]uspension of the offending person, prohibition of the offending team from hiring the person being tampered with, forfeiture of draft picks and individual and/or team fines of up to $5 million."
The NBA's warning comes on the heels of a meeting between Paul and Hornets team officials, where Paul indicated that he was happy with the direction the team was going. The meeting took place after Paul expressed his interest in being traded if the Hornets did not demonstrate a willingness to be competitive. Paul has also been the subject of various trade rumors in the past month.
The memorandum speaks volumes about the NBA's concern about tampering. It is unusual for the NBA to specifically name a player in its communications about league rules. The NBA issued a tampering warning without naming individual players in December of 2008, around the time free agency rumors began to circulate about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Is the NBA overreacting here?
Talks about collusion and tampering have been prevalent this offseason after James, Wade, and Bosh sat down to discuss their free agency plans last June. Several NBA owners, including Mark Cuban, expressed their displeasure with the effectiveness of tampering rules to NBA officials in a meeting this month.
NBA commissioner, David Stern, has since clarified his stance on NBA tampering rules. He indicated that these rules are aimed at preventing teams and their managements from contacting players, rather than players chatting with other players about the possibility of playing together.
The league maintains that the only likely way a player can be found guilty of violating league tampering rules in this situation is if the player is viewed as a "mouthpiece" or de facto representative of the team in his discussions with the other player.
Still, many continue to criticize the tampering rules, noting that the NBA will not be able to effectively police these types of situations.
SN Counsel focuses his journalism on sports law issues