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James Harden Deal Sparks Tampering Investigation

Did Harden and Philadelphia break the rules when they negotiated a pay cut for the former MVP?

NBA: Miami Heat vs Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The NBA is investigating the Philadelphia 76ers for possible tampering and early contact, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The investigation is centered on Philadelphia’s recent free agency signings of former MVP James Harden, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.

More specifically, Wojnarowski reported the league is investigating the circumstances of Harden declining his $47 million player option for next season. Harden’s new deal with Philadelphia came with a $14 million pay cut, but the NBA is wondering whether it also came with future financial promises from the franchise.

NBA’s expected to pursue circumstances surrounding Harden declining $47M option to sign a 1+1 deal that cut salary to $33M and gave team more flexibility to sign Tucker and House. Some have wondered if another deal was already in place for future — which is against CBA rules.

Instead of opting into the hefty player option, Harden signed a two-year deal last week that will give him $33 million for the 2022-2023 season. The second year of the contract is another player option for $35.6 million, so Harden can opt out again next summer and negotiate a new deal.

Many in the media have praised Harden as selfless for his move to sacrifice money for a better shot at winning. The saved salary from the new contract allowed Philadelphia to sign Tucker to a three-year, $33.2 million deal and House to a two-year, $8.5 million deal. The new additions bring valuable wing depth to a Sixers roster with All-Star center Joel Embiid and legitimate championship aspirations.

The three players mentioned in Wojnarowski’s report and Philadelphia general manager Daryl Morey were all familiar with each other prior to this summer. Harden, Tucker and House all played together in Houston for multiple seasons when Morey was the Rockets general manager.