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NBA Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta Hawks Might Be Repeat Offenders For Tampering?

Atlanta Hawks

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks could become the NBA’s first repeat offenders for violating the anti-tampering policy due to a recent letter sent to prospective ticket buyers mentioning the names of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.

In an e-mail sent out by the ticket sales department, the letter was headlined “Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard” and stated where the team stands heading into free agency.

“The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up,” the letter said. “With massive cap space, four 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,” the letter added. “Once we solidify our signings there will be no seats left.”

The letter also included a link to an ESPN.com story about Paul’s displeasure with being credited as the reason former head coach Vinny Del Negro was fired.

While Paul and Howard are poised to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, both players are currently under contract with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

In 2008, the NBA sent out an anti-tampering policy memo to all 30 teams stating it will not tolerate a member of an organization commenting on the future of another team’s potential free agent before the free agency period begins.

The Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Hawks witnessed first-hand the consequences for such action in 2010 when LeBron James was about to become an unrestricted free agent.

Then-Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr was given the first fine at $10,000 for his comments in a radio interview on the Dan Patrick Show.

When asked if the Suns were going to pursue James, Kerr said they would offer a mid-level exception.

“If he’ll take mid-level, we’ll give it to him,” Kerr said in the interview. “[It’s] about 5.5 million. I think he’ll take it. Don’t you think?”

Patrick then asked Kerr where he thought James would end up.

“I have no idea,” Kerr said. “I want him to stay in Cleveland. I think that’s good for sports when you’ve got players you connect to over a long period of time, so I hope he stays.”

Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban received the first fine at $100,000 as a result of an interview he did with CNNMoney.com. Cuban was asked if he was interested in signing James and he responded that he hoped for a sign-and-trade.

“Come July 1, yeah, of course, anybody would be interested in LeBron James,” Cuban said in the interview. “And if he leaves via free agency, then it’s going to be tough. If he does like I’m guessing, hoping he will, which is say, ‘I’m not going to leave the Cavs high and dry,’ if he decides to leave — there’s still a better chance he stays — then he’ll try to force a sign-and-trade and that gives us a chance.”

Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon was handed the third fine at $25,000 for his interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“If somebody came to us tomorrow and said you can have Lebron for max money and it puts you in the luxury tax, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Gearon said in the interview. “But am I going to do that for [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas? Am I going to do it for Jermaine O’Neal? I don’t think so. …”

With this possibly being the second time the Hawks have tampered, it’ll be interesting to see what consequences the league hands down. The maximum penalty in the 2008 memo was a $5 million fine and a team could be banned from negotiating with the free agent.

Follow A.J. Speier on Twitter @Ajbisons for articles, news, and all things NBA