Friday's NBA: 76ers investigated for possible tampering involving Harden

Dan Gelston
Associated Press

Philadelphia — The Philadelphia 76ers are being investigated by the NBA for possible tampering in offseason free-agency moves involving James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Friday night.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the team is cooperating with the investigation.

The Philadelphia 76ers are being investigated by the NBA for possible tampering in offseason free-agency moves involving James Harden.

Harden signed a deal worth slightly over $68 million, paying him about $33 million this season with a $35 million player option for the 2023-24 season. Harden, though, will make about $14.5 million less this coming season than he could have earned under his previous deal. Harden had a $47.4 million option for this coming season that he declined last month, saying he wanted to give the 76ers flexibility to improve their roster and compete for a championship.

ESPN reported Friday there are questions involving Harden and the Sixers having “a handshake agreement in place on a future contract.”

“Taking less money this year to sign as many players as we needed to help us contend and be the last team standing was very, very important to me,” Harden said in an interview this month with The Associated Press. “I wanted to show the organization, the Sixers fans and everybody else who supports what we’re trying to accomplish, what I’m trying to accomplish individually, that this is what I’m about.”

Tucker signed a $30 million, three-year contract and House signed for $8.4 million over two years. The Sixers were able to sign Tucker to the full mid-level exception and sign House to the bi-annual exception because Harden declined his option.

If Harden had opted in before his June 30 deadline, Philadelphia would have had a much more difficult time in finding financial pathways toward luring free agents.

The NBA approved stiffer penalties for tampering in 2019 and stripped a draft pick from both the Chicago Bulls for early contact with Lonzo Ball and the Miami Heat for doing the same with Kyle Lowry in the summer 2021.

Green looks for max contract?

Contemplating life without Draymond Green (Michigan State) isn’t what the Warriors or their fans want to be dealing with after basking in the glory of another NBA title the last few weeks.

Yet it’s now fair to wonder if the ever-rising price of success will ultimately cost the Warriors Green or another of the core contributors to their recent championship.

Green wants to get paid. His signature defense and leadership just spurred the Warriors to their fourth title in eight years, and now he wants a max contract extension from the Warriors, according to The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II and Anthony Slater.

A max extension for Green would be worth a reported $138 million over four years. And it sounds like he wants that deal now.

Two questions quickly come to mind: Is Draymond worth it? Can the Warriors afford it? Those are questions only the Warriors can answer.

They thought they’d have another season to make a decision on the 32-year-old Green, who played in only 46 regular-season games but was mostly outstanding in the postseason. Green has two years remaining on his four-year, $99.7 million contract, however, his final year (2023-24) contains a player option of $27.6 million he’ll likely decline after this season.

What’s driving the immediate angst regarding Green is that he becomes eligible for a contract extension on Aug. 3. Now, the Warriors could push serious negotiations off until next summer by pointing to their precedent of waiting until their stars have just one year left before talking about an extension. Even Stephen Curry had to wait until before the final year of his contract before signing his max extension last summer for four years and $215 million.

There may not be an easy answer for the Warriors, who just paid $170 in luxury taxes as part of their NBA-record $346 million in combined salary and luxury taxes. How much more will owner Joe Lacob, who bought the franchise for a record $450 million in 2010, be willing to spend to keep a championship team intact?

Green’s not the only Warrior who will be eligible to cash in as Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole are all eligible for contract extensions this offseason. It’s doubtful the Warriors engage in contract talks with Thompson, who is coming off a rebuilding year and has two years and $83.8 million left on his max deal. A preseason deal for Poole, who will be a restricted free agent after next season, remains a possibility.

Wiggins represents the Warriors’ most pressing contractual situation. This postseason’s breakout star is set to become an unrestricted free agent following next season, when his five-year, $147.7 million deal runs out. It’s highly unlikely both sides won’t come to an agreement to keep Wiggins around.

In many ways, Green’s contract becomes the most problematic. If he insists on a new deal before the season and it doesn’t materialize, how will it affect him and the team?

The Athletic reported Green is said to be willing to wait and explore free agency after next season, if need be, to prove his worth. What would next season look like for Golden State with an unhappy (but highly motivated) Green?

Looking further into the future, where would the possible landing spots for Green be? Every team needs someone like Green, whose presence would immediately improve any team’s defense. But Green would seem to be a perfect fit with the Lakers and fellow Klutch Sports client LeBron James. How about a Clippers frontcourt of Green, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George?

Would Green have interest in returning to his Michigan roots to become the team leader for a young and extremely talented Pistons team?

Should Green ever reach free agency, the first call he’d receive would probably be from Damian Lillard, who reportedly has practically begged Trail Blazers ownership to acquire Draymond.

Buckle up, Warriors fans. Things just might get bumpy here soon.