The free-agent frenzy has come and gone again in the NBA, and it’s the same old story in New York for the Knicks and their fan base. Another year, another “big” free agent signing fails to move the needle. The team signed Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million contract, and now they’re being hit with tampering allegations.
It’s such a Knicks move it’s not even funny anymore. I’m not against Brunson securing the bag; I’m happy for him. The Mavericks probably don’t get to the Western Conference Finals without his contribution in the playoffs. Brunson took over against Utah in the first round, with Luka Dončić inactive during the first three games of that series. Brunson led Dallas to a 2-1 series lead, scoring 41 and 31 points in games 2 and 3.
But this signing doesn’t jump off the page when you think of New York City and the wow factor. Then again, Knicks free agent pickups never really scream “wow.” Not in the good sense, at least. Last year it was NYC native Kemba Walker coming home to play for the franchise, and that wound up not working out. They also brought in Evan Fournier, which was great for about one night at the start of last season.
A couple of years before Walker and Fournier, Julius Randle signed a big free-agent deal with New York. That came on the heels of Kevin Durant turning down the Knicks in favor of following his buddy Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets. That hasn’t exactly worked out as planned, but it’s the same old song for the Knicks.
This franchise hasn’t landed a big-name star since Carmelo Anthony in 2011. That should have been a free agent signing, but the Knicks gutted their roster trading for Anthony instead of waiting until the summer. That move produced a couple of postseason appearances and a 54-win season where the Knicks were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Certainly not the outcome Knicks fans had hoped for.
With the Brunson deal, the kicker is now the team will likely be penalized because it leaked that they’d been in contact with him before they were supposed to. Honestly, who cares? Damn, near every team, is tampering. Someone’s always spouting off about this player and that player going to another team. It’s already the wild west in terms of player movement. Let’s remove “tampering” and let them all have at it. Teams and players are already doing it anyway.
Tampering in the eyes of the NBA is all over the board. If you mention a player while being even remotely affiliated with a different team, you could get popped with a tampering fine. The Lakers incurred a $50,000 fine a few years ago after Magic Johnson spoke glowingly in public about the greatness of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Brunson’s situation relates more closely to actual tampering, but even that seems ridiculous. There’s no way the NBA believes organizations aren’t having conversations with soon-to-be free agents during the season. Even if it isn’t directly with the player, messages are relayed through an agent, family members, friends, etc.
These franchises know the deal, and they’re still out to get the upper hand on acquiring players by any means necessary. It’s time to give up this charade. Teams and players don’t give a crap. The league makes so much money that teams don’t care about $50K or even $100K fine if it means landing their man.
Trust me, these owners care much more about the recklessness of player movement and these guys demanding trades with multiple years left on existing contracts. But that’s likely to end in the next collective bargaining agreement. Player empowerment is wonderful, but it’s gotten out of control, and the owners will reel it in soon.
When the two sides return to the bargaining table, one thing on the agenda needs to be removing tampering. It’s downright silly. It can’t be that significant a factor affecting competitive balance if nearly everyone engages. They just need to eliminate it and move on.