Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive's reported "fixation" on guard Buddy Hield may have included some tampering.
Hield said Wednesday that Ranadive told him "we're still gonna get you" when the Kings met the New Orleans Pelicans during the regular season, per Sean Cunningham of ABC10. Sacramento officially acquired the rookie Monday as the centerpiece to a trade that sent All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans.
Any contact Ranadive had with Hield about acquiring him would constitute tampering. NBA executives and coaches are prohibited from having basketball-related contact with players on other rosters.
While it's unclear if the NBA will investigate the matter, the situation shows how much the Kings owner seemingly overvalues Hield. A source told Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com on Monday that Ranadive believes Hield has "Steph Curry potential."
The 23-year-old guard won National Player of the Year honors last season at Oklahoma and put on a Curry-esque shooting display while taking the Sooners to the Final Four. New Orleans selected him sixth overall in last June's draft, two spots ahead of where the Kings were originally slotted to pick.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford reported Sacramento was "praying" Hield would fall to it in the draft. The Kings wound up making a deal with the Phoenix Suns and acquiring Georgios Papagiannis with the 13th overall pick when none of their favorites were remaining on the board.
Hield did little on the court to engender much faith in New Orleans. He averaged 8.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 57 games, emerging as a general negative. While improved somewhat from a miserable start to win December's Rookie of the Month award, he's still shooting just 39.2 percent overall and 36.9 percent from three.
ESPN's defensive RPM metric ranks Hield 93rd among shooting guards this season (minus-2.49). Of course, Hield wasn't expected to become an elite defender. But Ranadive better know something everyone else doesn't, or his fixation with Hield may wind up sinking his franchise.