The Pacers, who dealt George to the Thunder this summer, filed the charges. The Lakers and Johnson now face a variety of potential punishments if the league finds evidence of impermissible contact and/or tampering.
George is a unique case in that he publicly stated his desire to sign with the Lakers when he becomes a free agent next summer. That prompted Indiana to shop the four-time All-Star, with the Thunder winning the sweepstakes by dealing away Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
As ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out, the Hawks and Kings were fined four years ago for outlining their plans to pursue free agents from other teams. But it’s been 17 years since the league cracked down hard on any team for tampering.
The Timberwolves were fined $3.5MM, lost five first-round picks (though two were later reinstated) and saw their owner and GM suspended. Those penalties were handed down when the league uncovered evidence that the club and forward Joe Smith had a side agreement for a future contract to circumvent the salary cap before Smith became a free agent. Smith wound up signing with the Pistons after Minnesota was prevented from securing his services.
A fine is the Lakers’ most likely penalty if some evidence of tampering is uncovered. However, if the league believes the Lakers and George already have a verbal agreement, they could face penalties similar to the ones doled out to the Timberwolves in 2000. It could also prevent George from joining the Lakers.
The Lakers have hired legal representation and seem confident they will be cleared of the charges.
That brings us to our question of the day: If the league’s tampering investigation involving the Lakers and Paul George uncovers evidence of a verbal agreement, should the Lakers be prohibited from signing George in free agency or acquiring him in a trade? If not, what would be an appropriate punishment?
Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this hot topic. We look forward to what you have to say.