by Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
- Three NBA teams were fined for tampering, USA TODAY Sports has learned from internal league memo
- One of the teams is Atlanta Hawks, according to person with knowledge of fine
- Hawks sent out letter to season ticketholders mentioning free agents Chris Paul, Dwight Howard
Three NBA teams have been fined for tampering, according to an internal league memo obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
A person familiar with the fine said that one of the teams is the Atlanta Hawks. The person spoke on on the condition of anonymity because the fines haven't been made public.
The Atlanta Hawks sent a statement to USA TODAY Sports saying: "We fully understand and respect the NBA's decision."
The memo says the teams were fined because "The conduct at issue involved statements by a team employee to the media, a team email to prospective season ticket purchasers, and articles posted online on a team website, each related to players who are currently under contract to other teams but who will become free agents this summer."
That line refers to a recent letter sent by a Hawks employee to season ticketholders that mentioned Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and Lakers center Dwight Howard as possible signees.
"The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up," the Hawks' letter, which was sent via e-mail, said. "With massive cap space, 4 draft picks, and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality. This is your opportunity to get on board before its [sic] too late. Once we solidify our signings there will be no seats left."
The definition of tampering was provided in the memo, and reads as follows.
"Article 35A of the NBA Constitution states that it's a violation of the league's anti-tampering rule for any person affiliated with an NBA team to directly or indirectly (i) entice, induce, or persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any player, coach, GM or other person under contract to any other NBA team to enter into negotiations for or relating to that person's services or to negotiate or contract for such services, or (ii) otherwise interfere with the employment relationship between that employee and the other NBA team."
The Constitution also says that potential penalties for tampering include suspension of the offending person, 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.