Mark Cuban toes the tampering line

Did Mark Cuban’s big mouth get him in hot water again?

Cuban, meanwhile, went public with his quest to acquire James in an interview this week posted on CNNMoney.com, in which he expressed his interest in James as a free agent and said that the NBA star needs to play in a place where he trusts the organization.

“Come July 1st, yeah, of course, anybody would be interested in LeBron James, and if he leaves via free agency, then it’s going to be tough,” Cuban said. “If he does like I’m guessing, hoping he will, which is say, ‘I’m not going to leave the Cavs high and dry,’ if he decides to leave — there’s still a better chance he stays — then he’ll try to force a sign-and-trade, and that gives us a chance.”

That’s fine, right? Everyone wants to sign LeBron, so what’s wrong with talking about it now that his season is over?

Not so fast.

Cuban’s comments could fall under the NBA’s tampering rules, although he dismissed that notion Thursday. In 2008, the league sent a memo to the 30 NBA teams detailing specific guidelines when discussing potential free agents with the media.

The memo read: “If a member of your organization is asked by the media about a potential free agent prior to the July 1 following the last season covered by the player’s contract, or about any other person under contract with another NBA team, the only proper response is to decline comment.”

Penalties outlined in the memo could include suspension, 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.

He certainly didn’t decline comment, so Cuban could be fined over this. Rockets GM Daryl Morey was recently fined $100 K for discussing the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement with Bill Simmons.

It has to be tough to hear all the speculation surrounding LeBron’s future and refuse to comment when asked about it. But maybe Cuban should avoid interviews if he can’t follow the NBA’s rules.

Or maybe the NBA’s rules should be a little more lenient. They’re trying to avoid certain teams getting a leg up on the courtship of LeBron James, but that’s no doubt already begun through back channels.

Does anyone really believe that LeBron isn’t going to start thinking about this decision until July 1? If so, I’ve got a bridge to sell.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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