The NBA says its deputy commissioner, Adam Silver, did not violate league rules by attending Thursday's U.S. Open with Casey Wasserman, owner of the largest agency that represents NBA players.
In the months before the NBA locked out its players on July 1, the league sent several memos to its 30 clubs informing them that team owners and employees would be prohibited from speaking with the league's players or anyone affiliated with them. Rule breakers would be fined as much as $1 million.
So the sight of Silver, one of the key figures in the league's ongoing labor meetings, sitting with Wasserman, head of the Wasserman Media Group, at the Open had some agents and executives crying foul.
But league spokesman Mike Bass said any grumblings are off base.
"Our rules prohibit team personnel from having contact with NBA player agents," Bass said. "Casey Wasserman is not an NBA player agent and Adam Silver is not a team employee. There are no issues here."
Wasserman employs Arn Tellem, the league's foremost agent with 34 players earning a combined salary of more than $150 million annually. Tellem is also at the forefront of the push to get the NBA Players Association to decertify.
While many league executives see nothing wrong with Silver and Wasserman associating with one another, some view it as a double standard.
"I think it's (unfair)," one executive said. "If we can't talk to them, they shouldn't be able to talk to them outside of meetings. I can see why people would get angry about it."
Agent Happy Walters, who represents New York Knicks star Amare Stoudemire, agreed. He complained that Stoudemire, who is recovering from a back injury, isn't able to speak with the Knicks trainer yet Silver can hobnob with Wasserman.
"If it's a rule for everybody else it should be a rule for the NBA office," Walters said. "The reason the rule is out there is so that people involved in negotiations from both sides are not discussing it outside of the theater they want to discuss it in, which is the negotiating table. But Silver's getting together with the owner of an agency that controls the most players and also has the most hawkish of all the agents."
Team owners and employees also are not allowed to speak publicly about the lockout or the players. Icon Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, was recently fined $100,000, a source said, for discussing the lockout and a player in an Australian newspaper.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.