The NBA today announced a $250,000 fine against the Los Angeles Clippers. The impetus for the fine was the July 2nd recruitment presentation made by the Clippers to DeAndre Jordan. Per the NBA's official release,
"The violation involved a presentation made by the Clippers to free agent DeAndre Jordan on July 2nd that improperly included a potential third-party endorsement opportunity for the player. While the NBA's investigation ultimately concluded that the presentation of this opportunity had no impact on Jordan's decision to re-sign with the Clippers, the team's conduct nevertheless violated the league's anti-circumvention rules.
The NBA's anti-circumvention rules prohibit teams from, among other things, providing or arranging for others to provide any forms of compensation to a player unless such compensation is included in a player contract or otherwise expressly permitted under the CBA."
To be clear, the Clippers met with Jordan on July 2nd, but initially lost out to the Dallas Mavericks afterwards when Jordan agreed to go to Dallas on July 3rd. The epic fiasco, that saw Jordan reverse his decision, was on July 9th. Thus it's fair to say whatever the Clippers pitched to Jordan initially was not enough to impact his decision making.
Still, it's surprising that the Clippers got fined at all.
First, it's relatively common for teams to pitch to free agents the lure of endorsement deals if a player signs with them. The Lakers focused a large part of their initial pitch this summer to Lamarcus Aldridge on the glitz of LA endorsements. Back in 2010, the New York Knicks commissioned a study to "prove" to LeBron James that he could become a billionaire if he played for the Knicks. It's hard to believe that these kinds of pitches, that went unpunished, could be any different than the pitch presented by the Clippers to Jordan. Short of a corporate representative sitting in the room, it's likely that any and all pitches by teams (including the Clippers) highlight the same and specific endorsement opportunities that players can look forward to in a city. Yet only the Clippers got fined for violating the anti-circumvention rules. Alas there could be more to this story that hasn't been revealed.
Secondly, it will be interesting if the instigator of this investigation is revealed. While in theory the NBA could always be proactively monitoring free agent negotiations, it's unlikely. Not only are these meetings usually private and occurring at a rapid rate during free agency, it's also difficult to imagine the NBA expending the resources necessary to monitor what people would assume as legal negotiations. , This line of thought would mean that this investigation was brought upon either by (1) a clear and obvious violation, or (2) a complaint being filed. Now, unlike when Mark Cuban openly discussed free agent signings before the free agent moratorium was over, the Clippers didn't seem to recruit Jordan in any way out of the ordinary (as argued above). So if you've got some tinfoil to put on, one can only guess which person(s) told the Association that the Clippers were improperly pitching endorsements to DeAndre Jordan.
In the end, tinfoil aside, the Clippers resigned Jordan. That's all that really matters. Who really cares about this fine? Probably not Steve Ballmer. He is estimated to be worth $20.6 billion. This fine is 1/82,400 of his net value. In other words, Ballmer could probably make that much money in a second...if he actually even cared to make money anymore.
Apparently the Clippers offered DeAndre Jordan an endorsement deal with Lexus for $200,000 a year that NBA frowned upon, per source.— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) August 25, 2015