There was a time last summer when the San Antonio Spurs were all but done trading DeMar DeRozan to the Los Angeles Lakers. Suddenly, everything changed. Now, ESPN's Brian Windhorst suggests there may have been some tampering involved.
As I covered last month after DeRozan's interview with Chris Haynes, the four-time NBA All-Star believed the trade to make him a Los Angeles Laker was a done deal until "a couple of things didn't align." In the post, I criticized the Lakers' brass for choosing Russell Westbrook over DeMar, but it might not have been a straightforward choice after all.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst spoke about the situation on his podcast, Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective, on Friday.
"The deal didn't happen because [the Lakers] instead did a deal for Russell Westbrook, but Westbrook was traded at the Draft," said Windhorst. "So the inherent thing about this whole story is that the San Antonio Spurs -- the upstanding citizens of the NBA -- [DeRozan] is just openly talking about how they were trying to get a sign and trade done a week before free agency. Nobody said boo about this."
Windhorst's comments come on the heels of the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat each losing their next second-round picks after the NBA concluded a tampering investigation.
"Nobody cares about tampering," continued Windhorst. "You don't see Adam Silver calling for Gregg Popovich's cell phone. They made Masai Ujiri turn over his cell phone on the Kyle Lowry sign and trade."
Did the San Antonio Spurs get away with tampering?
As Windhorst suggests, it seems like the Spurs were working to get their best available deal for DeRozan even if some of it happened before NBA guidelines allowed. Still, I wasn't able to find any sign of an investigation into the situation at all, so this could just be a case of there being a lack of evidence.
It certainly doesn't surprise me that the Spurs decided to ship their star player off to the Eastern Conference instead of Los Angeles. It's definitely a Gregg Popovich type of move to make.
Whatever the case may be, the NBA clearly didn't see a need to look into the matter further, so it's hard to say definitively that anything nefarious happened. I'm sure Lakers fans might feel differently on the matter though.
Still, one thing seems clear about tampering in general in the league: every team probably does it, and the NBA doesn't generally seem to care about it unless it's egregious.
"Everybody is clearly negotiating before the buzzer," said Windhorst. "Of course, you have to -- otherwise you're behind. Once you come to the understanding that it's not about fairness, this is all much easier to handle."