Report: NBA opens tampering investigation into 76ers over James Harden, P.J. Tucker deals

The NBA apparently has questions about a Philadelphia 76ers offseason that let the team land P.J. Tucker and Danuel House while re-signing James Harden at a reduced salary.

A league tampering investigation has been opened into the Sixers over the sequence of events, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The team is reportedly cooperating.

Why would the NBA think the Sixers played the tampering game? Well, here is Shams Charania of The Athletic breaking the news that Tucker was joining the Sixers at 6:01 p.m. ET on June 30. NBA teams were allowed to begin communicating with free agents (i.e. the legal tampering period) at 6 p.m. ET on June 30.

Six minutes later House was reported to be in agreement with the Sixers.

There were also reports days earlier that Tucker would sign his three-year, $33.2 million deal with Philadelphia, so you don't need to be a genius to figure there was some communication going on behind the scenes.

Harden is involved here due to the nature of how his free agency went down. The day before the Sixers landed Tucker and House, the former MVP opted out of a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season with the understanding that he would return to the team on a new deal.

Harden would eventually return on a two-year, $68 million deal with a player option on the second year, a $15 million pay cut that was probably very helpful in fitting Tucker and House, both former Houston Rockets teammates of Harden's, on the team's balance sheet.

As Harden told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, he took the cut to help Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey improve the Sixers' roster:

“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”

Wojnarowski notes that a pre-existing deal being in place before Harden opted out would be illegal, so the Sixers are going to have some explaining to do.

Miami Heat forward P.J. Tucker, right, looks for an opening past Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
The Philadelphia 76ers were not subtle with their approach to P.J. Tucker. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)