Skip to content

Winderman: The fuzzy line of NBA talk, tampering

Feb 10, 2012, 1:11 PM EST

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. Clippers win ‘nice, boring’ Christmas Day battle with Warriors

    Dec 26, 2014, 2:56 AM EST

    Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers AP

    The flagrant fouls and ejections we’ve come to expect from these teams were non-existent, as L.A. came away with a “signature win” over the league-leading Warriors.

  2. Pau Gasol shines in his first matchup with the Lakers

    Dec 25, 2014, 11:48 PM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks Getty Images

    The Bulls blew out the Lakers on Christmas.

  3. Miami fans give LeBron warm welcome, Heat team not so much in upset win

    Dec 25, 2014, 11:31 PM EST

    Dwyane Wade, LeBron James Dwyane Wade, LeBron James

    Wade was brilliant… for a half, anyway. But that was enough.

  4. Kobe Bryant sits out Lakers’ Christmas Day matchup with Bulls

    Dec 25, 2014, 9:24 PM EST

    Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls

    Bryant misses his second straight game simply due to a need for rest.

  5. Russell Westbrook inspires Thunder to skid-stopping win over Spurs

    Dec 25, 2014, 6:46 PM EST

    Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

    With Kevin Durant out, Westbrook puts Oklahoma City on his back, elevates Steven Adams and helps produce 114-106 victory

  6. From Gregg Popovich down, Spurs relying on patience

    Dec 25, 2014, 6:10 PM EST

    San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Scott Brooks: Kevin Durant ‘could not go if he wanted to go’

  7. John Wall looks like All-Star, Knicks look like the Knicks, Wizards cruise to win

    Dec 25, 2014, 4:15 PM EST

    John Wall, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert AP

    Washington was never threatened after the first quarter.

  8. LeBron James, Stephen Curry leading in early All-Star voting returns

    Dec 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    2014 Sears Shooting Stars Competition Getty Images

    Kevin Durant would not start as of right now, but expect that to change once he starts playing again.

  9. PBT Extra: Top 5 NBA stories of 2014

    Dec 25, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    LeBron James AP

    And at No. 1… come on, isn’t it pretty obvious?

  10. Kevin Durant out for Christmas Day game vs. Spurs

    Dec 25, 2014, 2:13 AM EST

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings

    This will be his fourth game missed with a sprained ankle, they are 1-2 without him the last three.

  11. PBT Christmas Day preview: Kobe Bryant vs. Derrick Rose, finally

    Dec 24, 2014, 9:30 PM EST

    NBA All-Star Practice NBA All-Star Practice

    Previewing the Bulls vs. Lakers matchup at the United Center.

  12. A look at Jordan Brand’s Christmas shoes for Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony (PHOTOS)

    Dec 24, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    940x800q80

    Colorways inspired by shoes Michael Jordan wore during his best Christmas Day performance.

  13. Spurs and Thunder, who’ve been best in the West lately, both fighting for position entering Christmas matchup

    Dec 24, 2014, 7:00 PM EST

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

    Injuries to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard have put both teams behind the eight ball

Featured video

Who will land Josh Smith?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (8676)
  2. K. Martin (6670)
  3. K. Bryant (6557)
  4. K. Leonard (6410)
  5. C. Bosh (6258)
  1. D. Williams (6094)
  2. T. Jones (5988)
  3. D. Rose (5895)
  4. T. Parker (5769)
  5. J. Smith (5653)