The NBA has opened a tampering investigation into the Philadelphia 76ers’ signing of James Harden, ESPN reported.
Harden, who was traded to Philadelphia from Brooklyn at the trade deadline, declined the player option on the final year of his contract worth $47 million in 2022-23.
He became a free agent, and on Wednesday, he signed a two-year $68.6 million with the Sixers. This season, he will make $33 million, a $12 million pay cut from what he could’ve made had he exercised his player option. The reduction in salary allowed the Sixers to sign P.J. Tucker and Danuel House in free agency.
Harden is on record saying he was willing to do what it took, including a pay cut, to help put the Sixers in better position to win a championship.
Harden can also become a free agent next season and sign a new deal starting at $46.5 million for the 2023-24 season. ESPN reported that “around the league, there have been questions about whether there’s a handshake agreement in place on a future contract (with the Sixers) – which would be in violation of collective bargaining rules.” Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has answered questions from league attorneys, according to the sports outlet.
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Last season, the NBA penalized the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, and both teams lost second-round picks in the 2022 draft.
Commissioner Adam Silver addressed tampering violations before the start of the 2019-20 season.
“We already have rules on the books,” Silver said, “and essentially the league was coming in at the direction of our teams and saying — and I’ll accept responsibility — you need to do a better job enforcing the rules that are already on your books and do a better job ensuring that there is a culture around the league where people believe there are absolute consequences if you don’t play by the rules.”
Penalties range from a fine, loss of draft pick(s) and voiding of deals. In 2019, the league increased the maximum fine for tampering to $10 million.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA opens tampering investigation into Sixers’ signing of James Harden