The Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets are two of the three NBA teams that received slaps on the wrist by the league in relation to tampering charges
involving Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, reports said.
ESPN.com said the NBA sent a memo to teams Monday announcing the penalties but did not specify the culprits. The sports network identified Houston as one team, with one source calling the fine a "small" amount.
USA Today identified the Atlanta Hawks as the second team
. The Hawks sent a statement to the newspaper saying it "fully understand and respect the NBA's decision."
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The memo, according to USA Today, indicated the league fined the three teams because of respective "statements by a team employee to the media, a team email to prospective season ticket purchases, and articles posted online on a team website, each related to players who are currently under contract to other teams but who will become free agents this summer."
The reference to the team email to prospective season-ticket holders likely refers to a recent letter from a Hawks employee that specifically named Howard and Paul as potential Hawks signees. Hawks president Bob Williams told Sports Illustrated last week that the sales letter was an “unfortunate” mistake made by a team ticket representative.
Sources say that the online articles referenced in the memo were posted on the Rockets' team website.
According to Sports Illustrated, tampering punishments can include suspension of the offending person, prohibition of the offending team from hiring the person being tampered with, draft pick forfeiture, and individual and/or team fines of up to $5 million.
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Paul and Howard enter the NBA off season as two of the most coveted free agents. Paul is one of the league's top point guards, leading the Clippers to its first-ever Pacific Division title this past season. He averages 18.6 points per game in his career and 9.8 assists.
Despite criticism about the way he left the Orlando Magic and his one season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Howard remains a hot commodity among NBA big men, averaging 18.3 points and 12.9 rebounds in his career.
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