Mark Cuban said more than “no comment” when asked about LeBron James’ impending free agency, and now he’ll pay the price. Cuban will be fined a cool $100,000 for some pretty harmless remarks that apparently violated the league’s tampering rules, but Mark is as big of a fish as the league could hope to catch. This isn’t about making Cuban pay for his words, but about making it abundantly clear to coaches, managers, and owners around the league that impending free agents — namely, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh — are completely off-limits for discussion until July 1st.
For good measure, the NBA also fined Suns’ GM Steve Kerr $10,000 for commenting on the same issue.
You can read the full transcript of Cuban’s comments on LeBron below, or watch the video of his comments (from CNN Money) here.
“Come July 1st, yeah, of course, anybody would be interested in LeBron James. 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.”
[Do you think it's likely he'll stay with Cleveland?]
“Don’t know. I don’t know. What I do know about LeBron, in the minimal time I’ve spent talking to him, is that he just wants to win.”
[So he needs a team that can win.]
“Yeah. Money is not his issue, he needs to be someplace where he trusts the organization. Look, Dan Gilbert in Cleveland did everything he possibly could. That’s just the way the game works. If there was a template we all could follow, we’d all have championship rings.”
And, for kicks, here are Kerr’s comments on the Dan Patrick Show:
[Can I lump the Suns in to the LeBron sweepstakes?]
“If he’ll take the mid-level, we’ll give it to him.”
“About 5 and a half million. I think he’ll take it, don’t you think?”
[Where do you think he's going to go?]
“I have no idea. 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.”
Are Kerr’s comments really worth a $10,000 fine? And is the difference between them and Cuban’s really equivalent to $90,000? If the league wants to fine Cuban for citing how his team can acquire LeBron, that’s one thing, but Kerr’s remarks were obviously made in jest. This could easily turn into a witch hunt of team officials that have made comments regarding LeBron from around the NBA, but instead the league seems to be using Cuban and Kerr as a cautionary tale. I take it the message was received, as $100k (or even $10k) is a bit pricey for a rather limited sales pitch.