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Pompey: ‘Tampering concerns’ have ‘arisen’ with 76ers minority owner

REFORM Alliance Holiday Event Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images

Keith Pompey, the veteran 76ers beat writer, reports Monday that the possibility of a tampering investigation could factor into trade talks between that Sixers and Nets, that some in the league fear that Michael Rubin, a Sixers minority owner with deep financial ties to the league, has been trying to force a sign-and-trade in the summer.

Pompey writes...

[James] Harden has close relationships with Morey, Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin, and Sixers CEO Tad Brown. That’s where the tampering concerns arisen. A source said NBA teams fear that Rubin is putting things in place for a forced sign-and-trade through back channels. Teams think that’s why the Sixers are content with waiting until the offseason to deal Simmons.

Although Pompey doesn’t describe how the alleged tampering has played out, the wave of published reports suggesting that the Sixers coveted Harden is suggestive of a media campaign. He also said the fear of tampering could impact a possible exchange this week.

[W]ith all the speculations and concerns from NBA general managers, one league source thinks a forced sign-and-trade for Harden would immediately ignite a tampering investigation. That’s why the source believes it would be best for the Sixers to acquire Harden before Thursday’s deadline.

Moreover, the possibility of tampering charges could be a factor in trade talks, in who has the upper hand. If tampering stories grow and develop, the Nets wouldn’t have to threaten launching a probe. It would be the elephant in the room or in the Zoom as talks intensify. Under league rules, the NBA only investigates tampering charges when one or more teams — anonymously — ask for one. According to those familiar with past league inquiries, they can be thorough. Teams have been heavily be fined and their draft picks revoked for tampering.

A league investigation on Rubin would be problematic for the NBA as well. Rubin has a variety of financial connections with the NBA through his main source of wealth, Fanatics. The company, which aims to be the one-stop shop for everything from trading cards to sports betting, has several exclusive deals with the NBA and has been designated official e-commerce partner for the NBA and WNBA.

Rubin is personally close to Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, principal owners of both the Nets and Liberty. Rubin and Clara Wu Tsai are among the founding partners of the REFORM Alliance, the Meek Mill-inspired group trying to reform the nation’s criminal justice system, particularly parole and probation.

Pompey also said the possibility of tampering charges — which he said does not concern Sixers ownership — may be affecting how trade discussions work.

The source added that Nets general manager Sean Marks and the Sixers haven’t had thorough discussions about a Simmons-for-Harden deal. However, the source noted both sides are going through back channels and third parties to get information.

“It’s the most bizarre thing,” the source said. “It’s almost as if they are playing a game of cat and mouse … because of all the tampering [implications].”

In line with Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne’s report Monday morning, Pompey reported on a phone conversation between Marks and Morey a month ago, adding one more detail of what was discussed.

[A] source said Morey and Marks did have a preliminary discussion that included Harden and Simmons a month ago at the urging of others. Those discussions are typically about what teams would want in a trade. Multiple sources said the Sixers also asked if Brooklyn was interested in acquiring Paul Reed and Isaiah Joe to help with a deal as a third team.

“The conversation was non-productive,” one of sources said. “It didn’t have any impact whatsoever.”

Bottom line for Pompey is that he doesn’t think anything will get done before Thursday but contends despite what’s being said publicly, things are going on behind the scenes, again quoting a league source not further identified.

“People are saying one thing to one person and saying something completely different to someone else,” the source said. “I get the impression that that’s epitome of the entire situation on all fronts.

“I get the impression that they want Ben and they know the Harden thing is coming to an end and it’s not working anyway. There’s a sense that Simmons could be the lesser of two evils.”

Meanwhile, Joel Embiid took to the airwaves in Philly Monday and spoke about Simmons and Harden. Mike Missanelli had Embiid on his 97.5 The Fanatic show Monday afternoon. He praised Harden but noted he couldn’t talk much about him out of concern for tampering rules. He also called the rumors “not realistic.”

“He plays for the Brooklyn Nets, and there’s nothing I can do about that,” Embiid said. “That’s like you asking me a question like, would you love playing with Steph Curry?” he told

“Obviously the top players all make each other better, and he’s in that category of just being able to — and he’s gotten close before. He’s gotten to the conference finals, he’s gotten close to making it to the Finals, but that’s something I really can’t comment about because he plays for another team, and it’s not realistic.

“We all see the same thing on the internet, and I don’t know what’s true and what’s not. I do believe with the guys we have, my teammates, I do believe that we have a chance together. It’s going to take all of us to play at the highest level possible to compete.”