Next fine: Hawks owner goes hypothetical LeBron

Atlanta Hawks owner Michael Gearon today joined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Phoenix Suns president Steve Kerr as contributors to the NBA's LeBron James Tampering Fund (LBJTF).

The league smacked Gearon with a $25,000 fine for his May 19 comments that violated NBA anti-tampering rules in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"If somebody came to us tomorrow and said you can have LeBron for max money and it puts you in the luxury tax, I'd do it in a heartbeat," Gearon told the paper. "But am I going to do that for (Cavs center Zydrunas) Ilgauskas? Am I going to do it for Jermaine O'Neal? I don't think so."


Cuban still leads the league with the largest fine at $100,000 for saying he's "hopeful" that LeBron will choose to do a sign-and-trade with the Mavs. Kerr chipped in $10,000 for a tongue-in-cheek comment about paying LeBron the mid-level exception -- about $5.5 million -- next season.

It is fascinating how the NBA is scaling the severity of tampering and the ensuing fines for each offender. Apparently a nominal fee will be charged for cracking wise about LeBron's potential free agency such as Kerr did. They'll take the fine up a notch if the tamperer presents a hypothetical situation as Gearon did, and quadruple that when someone like Cuban offers up a potentially real scenario.

To all NBA owners and front-office personnel, repeat after me: When asked about LeBron James or any other potential free agent, the only proper response is, "No Comment."

OK, who's next to contribute to the LBJTF?