The Atlanta Hawks may have jumped the gun a bit by using the names of impending free agents in an attempt to boost their ticket sales, and the NBA could make them pay for it. A recent letter that was sent to prospective ticket buyers hyped up the possibility of Atlanta making a run at Dwight Howard and Chris Paul this offseason. Both Howard and Paul are under contract with other teams.
Per NBA rules, teams are not permitted to speak publicly about players who are under contract with other teams until they officially become free agents on July 1.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the letter was headilined “Hot New Player news: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.” The opening statement read as follows: “The buzz around our offseason is more than heating up. With massive cap space, 4 draft picks, and free agency rapidly approaching, we sit in the best position in the NBA. Player interest is skyrocketing as the possibilities of landing Chris Paul & Dwight Howard become more and more of a reality.”
The letter also included a link to a story about Paul being unhappy with the Clippers over the notion that he forced the team to fire former coach Vinny Del Negro. It told fans to snatch up tickets before the Hawks make their “signings” and “there will be no seats left.”
Hawks president Bob Williams issued a statement on Tuesday acknowledging that the team has in all likelihood committed a rules violation, but stressed that it was a team employee who authored the letter on his own.
“The letter that has been referred to was written by one of our season-ticket reps of his own volition,” the statement said. “While certainly he is a member of our business staff, his specific reference clearly does not represent how our basketball operations or our business staff have consistently communicated about free agency. It is unfortunate that this mistake, by a single ticket rep with no ill intent, occurred.”
You would think the team would proofread outgoing letters a little more carefully for reasons like this. In any event, the Hawks will probably be looking at a hefty fine. Paul may be upset with the Clippers and Howard may be leaning toward leaving LA, but Atlanta should have waited another month or so to start using that speculation as a marketing tool.Google+