Why the Rockets Shouldn’t Have Been Fined for Tampering

Houston Rockets Tilman Fertitta (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Tilman Fertitta (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Rockets recently were fined $25,000 by the league for tampering. Should they have really been hit with tampering? I don’t really understand why they were in the grand scheme of things.

So the Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook in a trade that had everyone talking, which is understandable. How often is a star player traded away without people talking about it?

Apparently, if the front office speaks about it prior to the trade becoming official, it constitutes as tampering.

Case in point Tilman Fertitta. After acquiring Westbrook, Fertitta, who was understandably excited, spoke to Mark Berman of Fox 26 saying the following:

“We’re excited to have Russell Westbrook. I would watch him play for Oklahoma City and he’s so athletic.”

Feritta’s comments on Westbrook got him in trouble with the league. This is because the trade hadn’t become official at the time, so the Rockets got handed down a $25,000 fine. It’s not a big deal because obviously Fertitta can pay $25,000 from his penny bank, but it seems like a reach for this to be labelled tampering.

Let’s examine the recent cases of tampering. Magic Johnson was fined $500,000 for speaking out about Paul George, who was at the time a member of the Indiana Pacers both officially and unofficially. The Lakers hadn’t just acquired him or agreed to a deal with him so that makes sense. Or Doc Rivers, who was fined 50,000 for speaking about Kawhi Leonard, who was a member of the Toronto Raptors both officially and unofficially. To that point, neither of these teams had agreed to a deal with said team that player was on. Although Kawhi eventually joined the Clippers in free agency, Leonard was still in the decision making process when Rivers made his comments.

This is why the Rockets being fined seems unfair. The Rockets had already reached a deal with the Thunder, so Westbrook was unofficially a member of the Rockets. Sure I get it, technically Westbrook wasn’t a member of the team yet, but who cares? They had just reached a deal to acquire him and he was going to be on the Rockets within days.

This seems really dumb by the NBA to fine the Rockets $25k for speaking about a player they had just acquired in a trade. Which team would have even had a problem with this? How was this creating an unfair advantage?

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Maybe it’s just me but it seems like the NBA should examine what they define as tampering.