76ers' Doc Rivers on James Harden, P.J. Tucker Tampering Allegations: 'It's Not True'

Erin WalshAugust 2, 2022

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are being investigated for possible tampering centered on the contracts of James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, but head coach Doc Rivers adamantly denied the allegations on Tuesday.

"Well, you just do. You handle it, because it's not true," Rivers said during an appearance on ESPN's The VC Show when asked how he is handling the tampering investigation. "Honestly, when James did this and said this, first of all, we didn't know what we were going to do with the money we were getting.

"... Listen, it worked out for us. It worked out for James. This was not something—I guarantee you Daryl [Morey] had no idea what James was going to do. I remember talking to him on the eve of when James can opt in or out and he's like, 'We got five hours left.' I mean, that was Daryl Morey. So, that tells you he had no idea."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that one of the "central elements" of the NBA's investigation is focused on Harden declining his $47.4 million player option for 2022-23 to take a pay cut on a two-year, $68 million deal.

The second year of Harden's contract is a player option, which will allow him to become a free agent ahead of the 2023-24 season and negotiate a new deal.

"Around the league, there have been questions about whether there is already a handshake agreement in place on a future contract—which would be in violation of collective bargaining rules," Wojnarowski added.

Harden said in an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he told the 76ers that he declined the player option so they could improve the team's roster in order to compete for a championship:

"I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over. This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That's all that matters to me at this stage. I'm willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that."

The Sixers went on to use that freed-up money to sign Tucker to a three-year, $30 million deal and House to a two-year, $8.4 million contract.

Morey has already begun answering questions from league attorneys, per Wojnarowski. Other team personnel will also be interviewed, and the Sixers will have to give investigators history of electronic correspondence and phone records.

After being eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals in each of the past two seasons, the 76ers wanted to make some upgrades and tweaks to the roster entering 2022-23 in hopes of competing with the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat for the conference crown and a berth in the NBA Finals.

Harden declining his player option allowed the franchise to do just that, and now it will boast a starting lineup that includes Harden, Tucker, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris, with House, Matisse Thybulle and De'Anthony Melton among those set to play off the bench.

With the new-look roster, the Sixers own the third-best odds to win the Eastern Conference at +700, tied with the Heat and Brooklyn Nets, per FanDuel SportsBook. They also have the sixth-best odds to win the NBA title at +1500, also tied with the Heat and Nets.

If the 76ers are found to have committed a tampering violation, they could lose at least one draft pick. Last year, the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat each lost a second-round draft pick after league investigators found they made early contact with then-free agents Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively.

It's hard to imagine the Sixers would care about losing a draft pick or two, especially because they are in win-now mode and aren't necessarily too focused on what future drafts may hold.

Gambling problem? Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369).

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL/IN/MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO/NH), 888-789-7777/visiting ccpg.org/chat (CT), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 1-877-770-STOP (7867) (LA), visiting OPGR.org (OR), or calling/texting TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN) or 1-888-532-3500 (VA).

Odds and lines subject to change. 21+ (18+ NH/WY). AZ/CO/CT/IL/IN/IA/LA/MI/NH/NJ/NY/OR/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.