The New York Knicks are likely to pursue tampering charges against Chicago Bulls after reports surfaced of an alleged recruiting conversation between Chicago's Joakim Noah and the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony during All-Star weekend.
According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, Noah urged Anthony to leave New York for Chicago if he wants his legacy to be about winning rather than money. Anthony has been the subject of rampant speculation this season as the Knicks' disastrous play has thrown them out of playoff contention and fueled rumors of potential destinations once the seven-time All-Star opts out of his contract July 1. Chicago has recently emerged as an attractive option, with the country's third-largest media market and a deep team built to make a significant title run once Derrick Rose returns from double knee surgery next season.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson didn't take too kindly to Noah's nudging of Anthony. "Legally, nobody can recruit anyone," he told ESPN New York. "You can't do that at this point. 'Melo is still wearing a Knicks uniform. Whatever was said, that's on them [the Bulls]."
The New York Daily News speculates that Knicks owner James Dolan could pressure the NBA to investigate the conversation as a possible violation of the league's tampering rules, which prevent a player or team from persuading or negotiating with anybody currently under contract with another team. The penalty for tampering could be suspensions and fines up to $50,000. Last year, the league fined three teams for separate tampering infractions involving Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
As such, the Bulls are keeping mum on the alleged conversation, and unless Broussard's sources come forward to the league, it would be difficult to prove tampering on Noah's part. In any case, it would be absurd if Noah and the Bulls were punished for this, both because it would set a dangerous precedent of legislating casual conversations among friends, and because Noah is absolutely right.
The original intent of the tampering rule seems to be aimed at preventing teams and team representatives from actively recruiting players who are still under contract. Noah might be the face of the Bulls in Rose's absence, but that doesn't exactly give him negotiating power. Furthermore, BREAKING NEWS: Players from different teams are friends. The NBA can't possibly expect that two people who have been the subject of endless speculation aren't going to discuss it. The conversation reportedly began because Anthony asked Noah about playing under Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who is rumored to be a candidate to replace Woodson at the Knicks' helm at the end of this season. That someone would ask a friend for first-hand experience of his potential future boss isn't unreasonable. Maybe we should just ban all chatter anywhere near the vicinity of a basketball court. It would be at least one area in which the NBA could finally say it rivals the NFL.
Then there's the uncomfortable reality that Noah didn't say anything everybody, including Anthony, didn't already know. When Anthony does opt out of his contract, the reasons he would stay with the Knicks are widely known: He fought tooth-and-nail to wind up here; he's a New York City native; he benefits greatly from the exposure that comes with being the No. 1 player in the No. 1 media market. Most of all, the Knicks can offer Anthony much more money -- around $30 million more -- in what would be the final big contract of his career.
Noticeably absent from that list of reasons: a ring. If I were Anthony, I'd take the millions I've already earned and go somewhere I'd actually have a chance of winning a title, because that place is not going to be New York. As a Knicks fan, I'd hate to see him leave, but most of us have resigned ourselves to our own bleak future, and after decades of ineptitude know that it will take nothing short of revolt to end the tyranny of King Dolan. The ghost of Patrick Ewing should tell Anthony all he needs to know about the importance of a championship to one's legacy and basketball immortality.
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