Already spurned by Steve Kerr after supposedly reaching a verbal agreement with him to become the Knicks' coach, team president Phil Jackson has now been fined $25,000 for mentioning Derek Fisher's name as a possible candidate during a press conference, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Fine stems from comments Jackson made at press conference last week about possibly hiring Fisher to coach the Knicks— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 2, 2014
It's unclear which comments specifically caught the NBA's attention. This was what Jackson told reporters earlier this week, via Newsday:
"He definitely is a person that's on my list of guys that could be very good candidates for this job," said Jackson, who indicated that he doesn't expect the search to go into July.
And in a smaller chat with Knicks beat writers, Jackson admitted he and Fisher had conversations about his future over the past couple summers:
"The last two summers, Derek and I have talked about the next step in his career," Jackson said. "So I kind of know what he wants to do, and his feelings. He's got family in L.A. He's got little kids still in L.A. I have no idea if he wants to move his family and come here. Those are things that he would have to express. There are so many unknowns."
These were improper because Fisher's team, the Thunder, were still in the playoffs. Thus, by publicly discussing Fisher's name before his contract expired, Jackson violated Article 35A, Section e of the NBA constitution:
No person may, directly or indirectly, (i) entice, induce, persuade or attempt to entice, induce or persuade any Coach, Trainer, General Manager or any other person who is under contract to any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services or (ii) otherwise interfere with any such employer-employee relationship of any other Member of the Association.
Possible punishments include suspension, the stripping of draft picks, prohibiting the tampered party from working with that team or, in most cases such as this one, a fine up to $5 million. Three teams -- the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets -- were found to have violated this rule last year by mentioning Dwight Howard's name before free agency began last year.
It's difficult to enforce this rule perfectly, since conversations happen between proxies such as agents or other handlers. It's no secret that Jackson views Fisher as a top coaching candidate; the Knicks were dubbed a "frontrunner" to secure his services back in mid-May and remain in that position, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Fisher told reporters after the Thunder's season-ending loss to the Spurs on Saturday that he will take his time before making a decision:
"Interview is a strong word at this point," Fisher said. "I haven't had any conversations with any executives ... Phil Jackson or the Lakers. There'll be conversations and talks at some point. This is still pretty raw and pretty fresh (with) what happened. So for the next day or two I want to make sure I respect whatever my future holds. Then as soon as possible I'll try to take the next steps."
Fisher is expected to have a formal meeting with the Knicks later this week, according to Wojnarowski.