Report: NBA investigates 76ers for possible free-agent tampering

The NBA has begun an investigation into the Philadelphia 76ers’ moves in free agency searching for possible tampering violations, ESPN reported Friday night.

The inquiry revolves around James Harden, who was open about his decision to decline a $47 million player option for next season and take a pay cut to allow the 76ers more cap room to improve their team.

According to ESPN, it would have been a violation of the collective bargaining agreement had the 76ers and Harden formed a “handshake agreement” for Harden’s new two-year, $68 million deal before he declined the option and briefly became an unrestricted free agent.

With the savings, Philadelphia general manager Daryl Morey signed forward P.J. Tucker and guard/forward Danuel House. Both Tucker and House spent time playing for the Houston Rockets when Morey worked in that front office.

Harden’s new deal also includes a player option for the second year, so the superstar could opt out if he becomes unhappy with the Sixers.

But Harden was open about his desire to try to help Philadelphia make moves to help their championship ambitions.

“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden told Yahoo Sports earlier this month. “This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”

The NBA is not shy about doling out punishments for tampering. The league stripped second-round picks from both the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat in the 2022 draft after determining the teams had made early contact with then-free agents Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively.