A few days after TMZ broke the news that Johnny Wilkes filed a lawsuit against Jerry West claiming he owes him 2.5 million for helping the Clippers acquire Kawhi Leonard, the NBA launched an investigation.
Source: The NBA has launched an investigation into the Jerry West/Clippers allegations surrounding the Kawhi Leonard acquisition that were detailed in a TMZ report earlier this week.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) December 17, 2020
If you didn’t catch the story, here’s a summation. Johnny Wilkes filed a lawsuit against Mr. West, claiming he is owed 2.5 million for helping the Clippers get Kawhi. In his lawsuit, Wilkes describes things that constitute tampering under NBA rules. Wilkes claims he helped the Clippers by:
- convincing Kawhi and uncle Dennis to leave Toronto and join the Clippers
- informed the Clippers they need to get Paul George to get Kawhi
- gave the Clippers specific pointers on how to pitch Kawhi
- facilitate a deal between West and Kawhi’s uncle … in which West agreed to give Uncle Dennis a Southern California home and a travel expense account.
Reducing (obvious) tampering is one of Adam Silver’s main projects. The NBA introduced new anti-tampering policies that include reviewing all communication team officials had within a year in necessary. The latest example of it was the Bogdanović affair in which the Bucks let it know they have a deal in place with the Serbian guard before they could legally start negotiations.
In addition to being under scrutiny for being too soft on players, Silver’s biggest challenge is ensuring parity between small market and big market teams. Milwaukee got its share of discipline. It’ll be interesting to see how serious and credible an investigation and possible sanctions against a team from LA will be. Particularly given the fact they are owned by the wealthiest owner in NBA history, Steve Ballmer.
The main issue here is the burden of proof. Only the Timberwolves were stupid enough to put their tampering in writing. If that’s the bar to prove tampering, then no-one has to worry. But if there is enough evidence that points to Mr. Wilkes acting as a Clippers representative and providing illegal contact and perks for Kawhi and Uncle Dennis, the league has to act if they want to remain credible.