ESPN: Sixers Pre-Communication Investigation Could “Potentially Levy a Really Big Penalty”

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Bontemps was recently on NBA Today, and talked about the idea of the Sixers not only being investigated for tampering, but also a more serious allegation of salary cap circumvention:

Bontemps mentioned the Joe Smith salary cap circumvention scandal.

Sean Highkin from USA Today wrote in 2014 about how the plan between Smith and the Timberwolves unfolded:

Smith had a promising first three seasons as a pro with the Golden State Warriors, but his production took a hit when he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1998. After the 1999 NBA lockout, he became a free agent, and was highly sought after. He signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal in Minnesota, well below market value, to allow the team to make other moves that offseason. It was a curious decision to say the least, especially considering he had turned down an $80 million extension with the Warriors prior to being traded, only to find that free agency wasn’t as friendly as he had hoped.

As it turns out, Smith and the Timberwolves had an under-the-table agreement in place, where Smith would sign three one-year deals for very little money, allowing the Timberwolves to acquire his Bird rights, which would allow them to go over the salary cap to re-sign him. He would have then been rewarded with a lucrative contract that would have paid him up to $86 million. This arrangement, of course, was highly illegal, and sanctions came down hard on the Timberwolves when the league found out.

According to J.A. Adande, then of the Los Angeles Times, the entire plan was blown open when agents Eric Fleisher and Andrew Miller parted ways. Miller retained Smith and superstar teammate Kevin Garnett in the split, which prompted a lawsuit that led to the unearthing of many documents, including those detailing the Timberwolves’ illegal agreement with Smith.

The Timberwolves were fined $3.5 million, and forfeited their first-round draft picks for the next five years (the team’s 2003 pick was eventually restored)

“…his production took a hit when he was traded to the Sixers.” I laughed out loud at that line. You don’t say?

Here’s the thing –

The difference between those Joe Smith deals and Harden’s is Smith was signing one year contracts at $1-$2 million after looking at an $80 million extension. Harden is still getting paid $33 million this year! That’s still market value! I know they have a mutual lovefest for each other, but would Daryl Morey seriously risk five first round picks and potentially being banned from the league for James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Danuel House? Do those three really scream “win at all costs?” Because that’s the part I have a hard time wrapping my head around. If Bontemps thought the league was investigating Fanatics and Michael Rubin about some duffel bags that were seen dropped off in Harden’s room at the Four Seasons than I would say they probably have a legitimate investigation on their hands. But a player taking less so a couple of former teammates can get a contract? That’s just James Harden being an A+ friend. The league though obviously thinks they have something because they already made Daryl and the Sixers organization turn over phone records and ‘electric correspondence’ according to Woj

All the phone records and texts are going to show is James letting Doc know he’s not fat anymore:

IT’S A WITCH HUNT! Adam Silver has the biggest hard on for the Sixers: