Skip to content

Winderman: The fuzzy line of NBA talk, tampering

Feb 10, 2012, 1:11 PM EDT

APTOPIX NBA All Star Basketball AP

Sorry, just not sure how this works anymore, when it comes to what is tampering what is innocent conversation, and, frankly what is NBA protocol and civility.

Perhaps because Kobe Bryant and LeBron James aren’t impending free agents, it’s all simply viewed as innocuous.

So Larry Bird, in his role as Pacers president, talks freely about Kobe being the player he’d want at his side if winning was the priority, but LeBron as the choice if it came to having fun on the court. Oh, and he says LeBron, by far, is the best player in the game today.

Kobe follows up by saying that if he was forming the league’s top duo, his choice for a partner would be LeBron.

Again innocent, candid, innocuous fun.

But what if Bird, whose team could be well-positioned in 2012 free agency, substituted Dwight Howard, a potential impending free agent, when he instead used the names of Kobe and LeBron on that ESPN podcast?

And what if Kobe, who has spoken openly of seeking a roster upgrade, had used Dwight’s name during his interview with ESPN’s Los Angeles radio affiliate, instead of LeBron?

Innocent, candid, innocuous fun then?

Or is this merely how it goes now with every comment parsed as if spoken in some type of code, including James’ reactions to the actions of others?

As a player, there are limitations of league influence on Bryant, similar to those who wanted a review of the plotting of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in advance of 2010 free agency.

With an executive, there is more significant oversight.

The point being that there often is an agenda behind the words, particularly as the trading deadline and then free agency approach. Perhaps not in these cases, but certainly in others.

Bryant mentioned how the “pieces would fit” with LeBron, as he very much would like Mitch Kupchak to get pieces to fit.

Bird spoke as a former player in regards to Kobe and LeBron, but also as an executive positioned for a major franchise makeover.

In David Stern’s world, there are understood limitations when it comes to freedom of speech. Just ask Mark Cuban.

These comments clearly didn’t go too far, although some might not say the same about LeBron’s tongue-in-cheek response to the blame game.

On one hand, in this age of social media, there is plenty to be said about hearing directly from the greats, of how the minds of Bird, LeBron and Kobe, and, yes, even Kendrick Perkins work.

On the other hand, perhaps such comparative lip-ature is better reserved for the offseason, when it doesn’t detract from the games, raise eyebrows about ultimate intent.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Latest Posts
  1. Steve Nash: ‘I think this is my last season’

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

    Steve Nash, Meta World Peace Steve Nash, Meta World Peace

    Lakers guard confirms he’s planning on retirement

  2. PBT Extra: Is this the end of Donald Sterling as NBA owner?

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:11 PM EDT

    Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano

    Donald Sterling isn’t going away, but he’s pretty much done as the Clippers owner now.

  3. Grizzlies name general manager Chris Wallace general manager

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

    Yes, you read that headline correctly

  4. Is DeMarcus Cousins the big man Team USA can lean on?

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT

    DeMarcus Cousins AP

    The question with Cousins is never talent, but his maturity seems to be there.

  5. Report: Gary Payton assistant-coaching candidate with Lakers, Bucks

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    Gary Payton #20 Gary Payton #20

    Jason Kidd or Byron Scott could hire former Seattle SuperSonic

  6. Kyrie Irving’s contract actually falls short of max

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving

    Irving wouldn’t get full 30 percent of adjusted salary cap by triggering Derrick Rose rule

  7. Report: Hawks draft pick ‘very likely’ to play in Spain next season

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Walter Travares, Walter Travares,

    Atlanta selected 7-foot-3 center No. 43 in 2014 NBA draft

  8. Blake Griffin backflips into sea before withdrawing from Team USA with reported back injury (video)

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six Getty Images

    Previous report said Griffin fractured back during Clippers’ playoff run, which ended before backflip video was posted

  9. Serge Ibaka still not 100 percent after unexpected playoff comeback

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three Getty Images

    Thunder forward says he’s improving, but ‘it’s going to take time’

  10. Report: Grizzlies hire Ed Stefanski for front office

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    Evan Turner Press Conference Evan Turner Press Conference

    Former 76ers and Nets general manager now Memphis’ executive vice president of player personnel

  11. NBA Players union elects first female executive director in Michele Roberts

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:32 AM EDT

    Derek Fisher

    It wasn’t pretty getting there, but the union has a leader again.

  12. Kyrie Irving’s world looks pretty good right now

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:30 AM EDT

    2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice Getty Images

    It’s been a good summer to be Kyrie Irving. Really good.

  13. Andre Drummond denies Draymond Green at Team USA practice (video)

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

    Andre Drummond, Jonas Jerebko, Draymond Green Andre Drummond, Jonas Jerebko, Draymond Green

    Pistons center denies Warriors forward at the rim with relatively late, but incredibly awesome, leap

  14. Report: P.J. Tucker arrested for DUI, registers .222 blood-alcohol content

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:14 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Phoenix Suns Getty Images

    Tucker also re-signed with Suns for $16.5 million this offseason

  15. Report: As NBPA focuses on after-party, agents want union vote delayed

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Atlanta Hawks Los Angeles Clippers v Atlanta Hawks

    National Basketball Players Associate scheduled to vote on Billy Hunter’s replacement today

  16. Derrick Rose: “I’ve become a smarter player, but I’m mad it took me seven years to learn it.”

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:19 PM EDT

    2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice Getty Images

    Mike Krzyzewski said Derrick Rose looked healthy at Tea USA training camp.

Featured video

Why can't Lakers have a player-coach?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. T. Warren (4716)
  2. L. James (4386)
  3. K. Love (4072)
  4. J. Nelson (3561)
  5. R. Allen (3435)
  1. D. Rose (3201)
  2. C. Anthony (2965)
  3. K. Bryant (2859)
  4. A. Wiggins (2299)
  5. A. Aminu (2173)