LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Los Angeles Lakers have been fined $500,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule, officials announced Thursday.
The action comes in response to “communications” by Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka with the agent representing Paul George that was a “prohibited expression of interest” in George while he was still under contract with the Indiana Pacers, the league said.
Under the NBA’s anti-tampering rule, teams are prohibited from interfering with other teams’ contractual relationships with NBA players, including by publicly expressing interest in a player who is currently under contract with another team or informing the agent of another team’s player of interest by one’s own team in that player.
After speculation mounted about a potential return to L.A. for the Palmdale native, George was traded this summer to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
League officials say the penalty reflected a previous warning issued by the NBA to the Lakers after comments made by Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson about George during an April 20 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”.
Johnson was asked what constitutes tampering, and if he would be allowed to speak to George if they happened to cross paths.
“We’re going to say hi because we know each other,” Johnson said. “You just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you come to the Lakers,’ even though I’m going to be wink-winking. You know what that means, right?”
The investigation did not reveal evidence of an agreement or understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire Mr. George, officials said.
George is set to become a free agent in 2018.