Cleveland Cavaliers Probing Miami Heat, LeBron James for Tampering
After months of speculation and whispers about potential tampering by Pat Riley and the Miami Heat in regards to the recruitment of LeBron James, it finally appears to be coming to a head. A Yahoo Sports report details that Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers have engaged a prominent law firm to investigate the potential tampering charges that occured prior to LeBron James’ Free Agency and while he was still under contract with the Cavaliers.
After James announced his decision to sign the Cavaliers, several sources reported that James met with Miami Heat President, Pat Riley during the 2009-10 season and while James was under contract with the Cavs. Other reports indicate that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh predetermined their futures as far back as 2008. The NBA indicated that they would not investigate tampering charges unless either the Cavaliers or the Raptors formally requested an investigation take place.
Dan Gilbert has reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the law firm’s services thus far, and as is his nature, will spare no expense to get to the truth and to get a firm resolution for his franchise and his fans. The plan for Gilbert is reportedly to be able to hand the NBA enough information to confidently launch a full scale investigation and to quickly arrive at a conclusion.
Some have speculated that the Cavaliers and Raptors would have no technical ability to allege tampering as they ultimately entered into a sign and trade agreement with their respective stars. I would argue, however, that their hands were forced and they had no other option but to get what they could in return after being hung out to dry.
If it is true that these players plotted together to leave their current teams and to team up in Miami ahead of time, it is not only distasteful and disgusting, but illegal. If Pat Riley contacted LeBron James and/or Chris Bosh while they were under contract with other teams, he and the Heat could be in some serious trouble with the NBA. It’s unknown at this point how the NBA would treat Dwyane Wade’s involvement. If Wade acted as a direct agent for Riley and the Heat to relay information and to recruit players that are under contract, I would think this would be an issue as well.
According to league rules, prior to the free agency period which began July 1st, no Miami Heat representative (and this includes Dwyane Wade)was allowed to discuss with James the specific circumstances around Wade, Bosh, and James joining together with the Heat. From all accounts, this is EXACTLY what happened.
In addition to the alleged dinner that Riley had with James during the season when the Cavs played at Miami (this is the same game in which LeBron announced he would change his number from #23 to #6), the Cavaliers’ lawfirm is also investigating a meeting with Riley and Wade with James’ inner circle that allegedly occurred in Chicago in June.
Potential penalties for tampering include front office suspensions, fines, and the forfeiture of draft picks. Many league sources question the NBA’s true desire to investigate these allegations due to the negative attention it would bring to the NBA and it’s biggest stars. After the NBA showed zero desire to look into the allegations when they first came out, it would stand to reason that this is true.
One thing is sure. Dan Gilbert is not going to let this die and he’s going to do everything he can to provide enough evidence to force David Stern’s hand. If Gilbert is able to uncover enough evidence (and it sounds like he is well on his way to do so), Dan Gilbert will be forced to investigate fully.
We’ll see what happens, but there has been enough smoke and things that just haven’t seemed on the up and up to indicate that something happened. The players even admitted that they discussed it at the Olympics and Bosh let it slip during their “Welcome Party” that it was pre-arranged. To what degree though, we’ll have to wait and see.