That might be music to the ears of Mavericks fans, including the folks who built lebrontothemavs.com, a site that Cuban tweeted about Thursday morning. However, the comments Cuban made in an interview posted on CNNMoney.com also violate the letter of the NBA’s anti-tampering law.
That can’t possibly be news to Cuban, who knows every nook and cranny of the NBA rules and regulations. Just in case this particular rule slipped anybody’s mind, the league office sent a memo about it to teams in December 2008.
That memo reminded teams that “the only proper response is to decline comment” if asked about a potential free agent prior to when the market opens on July 1. "Penalties for tampering include suspension of the offending person, prohibition of the offending team from hiring the person being tampered with, forfeiture of draft picks, and individual and/or team fines of up to $5 million," the memo stated.
Cuban didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail from ESPNDallas.com regarding his potential tampering violation, and we’re also still waiting for a response from the league office. (UPDATE: Cuban replied a few hours later: "no. Its not tampering. Not even close. nice try")
That won’t stop me from speculating about Cuban’s motives for possibly drawing the wrath of old pal David Stern. I'm going to give Cuban credit for being smart enough to have a calculated reason for his comments.
Perhaps Cuban figures it’s worth paying a seven-figure fine to let LeBron know in no uncertain terms that he’s serious about trying to add the two-time MVP to the core of a 55-win team that already features two future Hall of Famers.
Those certainly weren’t the first comments Cuban has made that might have been intended for LeBron’s ears. For example, Cuban definitely knew that LeBron was a huge Cowboys fan who loved big stages when in the aftermath of the All-Star Game he raised the possibility of playing occasional home games in JerryWorld. But the name LeBron never slipped out of Cuban’s lips while discussing the Mavs’ hopes to make a sign-and-trade splash in free agency.
Cuban crossed that line during his CNN sitdown.
This probably isn’t a serious enough violation to get slapped with the more serious penalties, like being prohibited from pursuing LeBron or forfeiting draft picks. Is it worth a few million bucks to possibly improve the long-shot odds of persuading LeBron to force a sign-and-trade deal with Dallas?
Hey, how often do two-time MVPs just entering their prime become free agents?