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Why has the NBA opened a ‘tampering’ investigation against the Philadelphia 76ers?

If found guilty by the league, the franchise could face anything from fines to the suspension of front office executives. Either way, we’ll find out soon enough.

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The latest news definitely comes as a blow, with the franchise in the middle of plotting a course for the 2022-23 NBA regular season.

76ers investigated by the NBA for ‘tampering’

According to reports, The NBA has opened an investigation into the Philadelphia 76ers for potential tampering, following the team’s offseason free-agent signings of James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. Curiously, Harden’s recent decision to turn down his $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season while accepting a pay cut is one of the focal points of the investigation. Harden’s move had the direct effect of freeing up cap space, which in turn allowed the Sixers to acquire Tucker and house. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had this to say:

One of the central elements of the league’s probe includes questions on Harden’s decision to decline a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23 and take a pay cut on a new two-year, $68 million deal, sources said. Around the league, there have been questions about whether there’s already a handshake agreement in place on a future contract -- which would be in violation of collective bargaining rules.

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has already begun answering questions from league attorneys, sources said. The investigation is expected to include interviews with team personnel and the organization turning over electronic correspondence and phone records to league investigators. Teams weren’t allowed to have conversations with agents or players on free agency deals prior to the opening of free agency at 6 p.m. ET on June 30.

What happens if the 76ers are found guilty?

Should the Sixers be found to be culpable in the situation, they could well face a variety of penalties including fines, forfeiture of draft picks, or even the suspension of executives. It’s worth mentioning, that just last year both the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat were sanctioned with the loss of a second-round Draft pick each. The punishments were due to tampering with free agents Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry respectively. As for the Sixers, it has to be said that things don’t look good. With the interest in Tucker well documented before free agency even began, Joel Embiid’s direct reference to Tucker only added fuel to the fire. The Sixers star, was discussing the type of player the team needed to add following their playoff elimination courtesy of the Miami Heat.

“...You look at someone like P.J. Tucker. Great player, but it’s not about him knocking down shots. It’s about what he does, whether it’s on the defensive end or rebounding the ball,” Embiid said at the time. “You look at, obviously, defensively, he plays with so much energy, believes that he can get from point A to point B, and he believes that no one can beat him. And he’s tough. He’s just physical, and he’s tough.” Had Embiid said nothing, would the Sixers be here now? Food for thought.