The Lakers have been fined $500K for violating the NBA’s anti-tampering rules, the league announced today in a press release. The ruling comes after the conclusion of an independent investigation conducted by a law firm, per the NBA.
According to the NBA’s announcement, the Lakers had received a warning when president of basketball operations Magic Johnson made comments regarding then-Pacers forward Paul George during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. The $500K fine stems from an “prohibited expression of interest” in George by GM Rob Pelinka during a conversation with George’s agent Aaron Mintz.
The investigation into the Lakers uncovered no evidence suggesting that the Lakers entered an agreement to sign George when he becomes a free agent or made any other promises to acquire him. However, because George remains under contract with another team, the NBA’s tampering rules prohibit Pelinka and the Lakers from expressing interest in him directly to his agent.
The Lakers are widely considered the odds-on favorite to land George when his contract expires in 2018, and the Pacers were reportedly angry about what they perceived to be tampering as they weighed their options for the All-Star forward. Indiana ultimately sent George to Oklahoma City in exchange for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, but filed paperwork with the league alleging that the Lakers were guilty of tampering.
Had the investigation into the Lakers revealed that the team had made a wink-and-a-nod agreement with George or his agent, L.A. would have been subject to harsher penalties, including the loss of draft picks and/or suspensions for front office members.
The $500K penalty represents the second-largest tampering fine in NBA history, behind the $3.5MM penalty assessed to the Timberwolves in the Joe Smith saga back in 2000, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today.