The NBA would prefer it if Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James stopped talking about how much he would like New Orleans All-Star Anthony Davis to join the Lakers.
In a tampering memo sent Friday to its teams and obtained by USA TODAY, the league does not want players making sustained public recruiting pitches to players under contract with another team.
The memo, which re-emphasizes the tampering rule in the NBA Constitution, also wrote, “In addition, recent attention has been paid to the issue of public comments by players. Generally speaking, it is not tampering when a player makes a comment about his interest in playing with another team’s player. However, if there are other aggravating factors – such as sustained public recruiting or evidence that the player making such a comment is coordinating with his team – then there may be a basis for a tampering violation.”
While the league did not mention any player or team by name, it’s clear it is paying attention to the Lakers and James’ comments.
James has made repeated comments about playing alongside Davis. He first told ESPN it would “amazing” and “incredible” if the Lakers acquired Davis. Then, in an interview with ESPN that aired on Christmas, James said told the network’s Rachel Nichols, “It would be unbelievable to have a 25-year-old superstar in the prime of his career come here. We saw what happened when Shaq came here from Orlando. I mean, that’s what the Lakers do, they go get out the big fish.”
James said he was aware of league rules when he made his initial comment.
Davis will not be a free agent until 2020. But the Pelicans, who are 15-20 and four games behind Sacramento for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, feel the pressure to keep Davis.
While Davis is the focus right now, the league also reminded teams of the wide-ranging tampering issue: “Teams should be entitled to focus their efforts on the competition this season with the players they have under contract, without having to divert attention or resources to conduct or speculation regarding the potential destinations of those players in future seasons once their contracts expire.
“Teams should be aware that the scope of the anti-tampering rule is broad, and its application in any given case is based on all facts and circumstances. Accordingly, conduct that does not violate the rule in any single instance may nevertheless constitute a violation if it becomes repeated or part of a broader collection of improper actions. Teams should therefore refrain from any conduct – including public statements – that could be viewed as targeting or expressing interest in another team’s player.”
The NBA also said it “regularly investigates potential tampering activity based on information supplied by teams or published in media reports.”