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The Knicks gave a point guard a $104 million contract, and an unusual family dynamic may prompt an NBA investigation

Scott Davis   

The Knicks gave a point guard a $104 million contract, and an unusual family dynamic may prompt an NBA investigation
  • The New York Knicks are reportedly landing Jalen Brunson on a four-year, $104 million contract.
  • Brunson has family ties to the Knicks, who hired his father to the coaching staff in June, raising concerns about tampering.

The New York Knicks had lined up the signing of Jalen Brunson to such a degree that the NBA may now investigate them for tampering.

Brunson was known to be the Knicks' top target weeks before free agency opened. Sure enough, when the free agency moratorium period opened on June 30, multiple reports indicated they agreed to a four-year, $104 million contract with the 25-year-old guard.

The signing has yet to be formally announced.

However, it was the moves that preceded the signing that got the attention of the league (and others).

The Knicks' basketball operations are run by Leon Rose, who used to be the basketball co-head at Creative Artists Agency and Brunson's agent. Brunson is now represented by Rose's son, Sam (though The Athletic's Tim Cato reported that CAA agent Aaron Mintz largely negotiated Brunson's contract).

Additionally, SNY's Ian Begley reported in early June that the Knicks were hiring Brunson's father, Rick — a former NBA player who spent time with the Knicks — to their coaching staff. It was an eyebrow-raising hire, in part, because Brunson had not coached since 2017-18 when he was with current Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There is a belief in league circles that the NBA will investigate the Knicks for tampering. The Athletic's Fred Katz had previously reported that several teams believe there will be a tampering investigation.

The NBA forbids teams from talking to players while they are under contract with another team. The NBA has investigated teams for tampering, most recently docking the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat of a second-round draft pick each for tampering while orchestrating sign-and-trades for Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively.

However, policing what family members can say to each other (in this case, the Brunsons and Roses) is a potentially thorny issue. Is it tampering if a son tells his father he wants to join the Knicks?

The NBA, for its part, isn't particularly worried about this becoming a recurring situation because it involves unique circumstances.

Still, unless the NBA investigates the Knicks for tampering, finds that they did, and drops the hammer, it's worth wondering if other teams might replicate the strategy. What if, ahead of a star player's free agency, teams begin hiring friends or family members to coerce them?

There are already instances in which family and friends land roles with teams once a player joins them. NBA fans and analysts have often wondered about LeBron James' relationship with Klutch Sports, which was founded by James' childhood friend Rich Paul and represents James. James' teams often sign Klutch players.

Likewise, James' childhood friend Randy Mims has followed him to stops in Cleveland and Los Angeles, too — his current title with the Lakers is Executive Administrator, Player Program/Logistics.

James Castleberry, a friend and college teammate of Kawhi Leonard, was hired by the Clippers after Leonard joined them in free agency in 2019. Castleberry also worked with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors while Leonard was with them.

None of these instances are tampering, but they show the lines are occasionally blurred and that teams are willing to make personnel decisions with their star players in mind. Teams could start doing that in advance to woo free agents and make recruiting easier.


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