The Los Angeles Clippers debuted Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on Wednesday with an introductory press conference, in which they denied committing any rule violations to recruit their new pair of stars.
After a free agency period that saw a suspicious amount of deals agreed to in the early hours, tampering has become enough of a point of contention that the NBA has reportedly opened an investigation into the matter. The Clippers’ engagement with Leonard and Leonard’s subsequent engagement with George have also raised questions.
Clippers president denies tampering allegations
Clippers president Lawrence Frank claimed that the team was completely transparent in pursuing Leonard and followed the rules “100 percent.”
The full answer, via the Washington Post’s Ben Golliver:
"We didn't recruit. What we did was, we went to many games to scout and research. We never had a conversation with Kawhi or with any of his people. We always felt by doing it out in front we were being very, very transparent. We weren't doing anything behind the scenes."
We know the rules. We follow the rules. We feel very, very good about how we did everything. With [owner] Steve [Ballmer], in terms of how he does business, his integrity is number one. We are always going to be above the line that’s what we did. Are we going to be aggressive? Yes. Are we going to be transparent? Yes. Are we going to follow the rules? 100 percent.”
Of course, the Clippers did actually get fined $50,000 for tampering in May after head coach Doc Rivers compared Leonard, then under contract with the Toronto Raptors, to Michael Jordan on ESPN. But that isn’t as insidious as what some are claiming the Clippers did to vault into the highest tier of NBA contenders.
The drumbeat of tampering accusations became louder on Monday when ESPN professional opinion-haver and former reporter Stephen A. Smith waded back into the journalism world to claim that there is talk in the league of Leonard’s uncle requesting more than just a contract for the player to sign with teams, a clear violation of the collective bargaining agreement.
It’s hard to take Smith’s report seriously at all considering he immediately followed up an ostensibly serious report with the words “I don’t know if this is true,” which you typically don’t hear from, you know, credible reporters. And even if there is talk of brazen violations by Leonard and the Clippers, it’s hard to say if that talk ever turns into significant consequences.
Maybe the NBA really will look into the Clippers as part of their investigation. For now, Steve Ballmer is just going to keep on clapping.
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