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Hawks Could be Charged With Tampering by NBA

The Atlanta Hawks are expected to pursue Chris Paul and Dwight Howard when the NBA’s free-agency period begins next month.

But by specifically mentioning both Paul and Howard in a letter to potential ticket buyers, the Hawks may have violated the NBA’s tampering policy.

Hawks president Bob Williams acknowledged Tuesday that the sales letter, first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was an “unfortunate” mistake made by a team ticket representative.

The letter names Paul and Howard, both scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, as players the Hawks will target this offseason. Written on team letterhead, the letter includes the headline: “Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard,” and claims that player interest in joining the Hawks is “skyrocketing.”

According to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, teams are required to decline comment about potential free agents prior to the beginning of free agency. Paul, who has spent the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers and Howard, coming off a disappointing season with the Los Angeles Lakers, technically remain under contract with their respective teams until the July 1 deadline.

“The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up,” the letter said, according to the paper. “With massive cap space, 4 draft picks and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality.

“This is your opportunity to get on board before its [sic] too late. Once we solidify our signings, there will be no seats left.”

Williams’ statement was to show that the sales pitch was not tampering, claiming that the staffer’s “specific reference clearly does not represent how our basketball operations or our business staff have consistently communicated about free agency.”

The NBA has not commented on the letter.

The letter also included a link to a story by ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, who was told by a source last week that Paul was angry with the Clippers because he had been widely blamed for the firing of coach Vinny Del Negro.

The Hawks have the cap room to sign both Paul and Howard, an Atlanta native, to lucrative contracts.The All-Stars have spoken in the past about joining forces, but after Paul was traded to the Clippers in December 2011 and Howard was moved to the Lakers last summer, the duo figured that possibility was dead.

Howard has been lukewarm at best about the idea of playing in his hometown. But the possibility of playing with Paul likely would get him to rethink his position.

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