It’s not the first time Daryl Morey’s busy fingers on social media have landed him in hot water. Heck, the last time the Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations did something like this, he created an international incident. But a two-word tweet reacting to superstar Stephen Curry crossed a line. At least that’s what the NBA thought.
Morey and the 76ers were fined $75,000 each for a violation of the NBA’s anti-tampering rules. The league instituted more rigid enforcement of regulations against tampering in 2019, increasing the potential fines. It’s been a mixed bag since.
What did Morey do that got both him and the Sixers tossed in the penalty box (to mix metaphors thoroughly)?
Philadelphia 76ers happy with one Curry; was Daryl Morey’s tweet trying to recruit another?
Daryl Morey said he was expressing his pleasure that Seth Curry is with the Philadelphia 76ers. The NBA interpreted “join ‘em” as a brilliant marketing strategy. The aim? To lure Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry to the City of Brotherly Love.
There is a lot the NBA gets right as an organization. But the tampering rules often appear to be enforced by either a Ouija board or random drawing. The Milwaukee Bucks paid $50,000 in 2019 for tampering with a player already on their roster, for crying out loud.
If you’re recruiting a guy who’s already here, does anyone hear it? The NBA did.
But the NBA also slapped Warriors forward Draymond Green with a $50,000 fine in 2020. Green was appearing as a guest on TNT’s Inside the NBA at the time. He said Devin Booker needed to leave the Phoenix Suns and go somewhere he could win. The implication was Green meant Golden State. So Morey and the 76ers are just the latest to get caught in the enforcement net.
Narrator: The Golden State Warriors were the worst team in the NBA in 2019–20. That is all.
Not Morey’s first step out of bounds on social media
In 2019, Daryl Morey — at the time general manager of the Houston Rockets — created international shockwaves. He tweeted a message supporting Hong Kong in its dispute with China. The NBA does billions of dollars in business in China. The Rockets developed deep ties there when they drafted Yao Ming with the first overall pick in 2002.
But China reacted strongly, banning the airing of Rockets games on television or via live stream. Houston owner Tilman Fertitta clapped back against Morey’s tweet, attempting to distance the team from the fallout. It turned into a talking point about freedom of speech rights. American politicians wasted zero time using the controversy for their purposes.
Maybe it wasn’t as big a surprise as many thought when Morey abruptly left Houston to go to the 76ers.
The NBA’s on-again, off-again fight against tampering
The 2019 free-agency period was pure mayhem given the number of superstars changing jerseys. In its wake, the NBA instituted stricter measures to enforce rules against tampering and the circumvention of the salary cap.
Tampering has been an open secret in the NBA for years. Former Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was mocked openly for being “the only GM in the league” who balked at talking to players and agents before the start of the negotiating period.
Kyrie Irving told The Ringer that the offseason begins at the All-Star break for players. Players are known to speak to each other from time to time, even if they’re on different teams. It’s a shock to the system, but it’s true.
The ability of players to determine their destinies is something that doesn’t sit well with some fans. So the NBA pays lip service to the enforcement of rules designed to prevent tampering.
But the real world contains a system in which players, agents, and news outlets announce contract agreements one second after the negotiating period opens. Did the complicated language of a max contract and a sign-and-trade deal come together in a single second?
It’s about as believable as Philadelphia 76ers executive Daryl Morey using a two-word tweet to negotiate with another team’s superstar.