NBA teams suspect Sixers are tampering with James Harden?

The possibility of the Sixers using Ben Simmons as a trade chip to try to acquire Nets star James Harden via sign-and-trade was rumored back in the fall, but the idea has gained more steam as of late, with multiple
reporters suggesting this week that such a scenario appears increasingly viable.

With so many recent reports connecting Harden to the 76ers — who are seemingly becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of hanging onto Simmons until the offseason — there are growing suspicions around the NBA about what Philadelphia’s ownership and management groups might know about Harden’s intentions — and how they gathered that information.

In the most recent episode of his “Posted Up” podcast (h/t NBC Sports), Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports laid out those concerns and explained what they might mean.

“Michael Rubin — for those who don’t know, the Sixers’ co-owner — (is) very, very, very good friends with James Harden,” Haynes said. “And I’ve talked to a rival owner, talking to rival front-office executives who believe that there could be something, some talks going on now between both sides.

“And this is what I was told: Some front-office executives are prepared to — when the time comes, if a deal does look like it’s about to transpire where there could be some potential sign-and-trade in the offseason — they’re prepared to get the league involved on a potential collusion case, dating back to what they believe could be going on right now, as to why we’re probably hearing a lot of Philadelphia-James Harden talk.

“So, that’s something to keep an eye on. If it does get to the point where it looks like James Harden will be headed to Philly, I was told there will be complaints issued to the league on trying to investigate, to see if there was any collusion, any talks of recruitment going on right now, which is illegal and against the CBA.”

It’s not unusual for a team to recruit a star player months before he reaches free agency. Before Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State, for example, there were whispers about the possibility throughout the preceding season.

However, those recruiting efforts were led by the Warriors stars rather than team management, and the NBA has never seemed interested in pursuing tampering changes against players. In this case, it’s Harden’s relationships with Rubin and Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey that have helped fuel leaguewide speculation.

Additionally, the league has made an effort to crack down on tampering in recent years, increasing and expanding the penalties that can be imposed on teams found to be guilty of violating the NBA’s rules. The league is much more likely to take a closer look at a potential case of tampering in 2022 than it would have been five or six years ago.

So far, there has been no indication that the Sixers have been in contact with Harden. But Haynes’ report suggests the franchise will face plenty of scrutiny if its oft-rumored pursuit of the former MVP is ultimately successful.


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