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Lakers fined $500000 for Paul George tampering, largest-ever penalty of its kind – Washington Post

The Los Angeles Lakers are going to have to pay for their interest in star forward Paul George.

After an independent investigation, the NBA announced Thursday that it has fined the team $500,000 for tampering in communications centered around George coming home to his native L.A. when he becomes a free agent next summer. Teams are not allowed to reach out to or discuss players under contract with other teams. George was with the Indiana Pacers until earlier this summer when he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

While the investigation reportedly initially centered on Lakers President Magic Johnson, the NBA memo first called out new GM Rob Pelinka for talking to Paul’s agent.

“The conduct at issue involved communications by Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka with the agent representing Paul George that constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract,” the league’s announcement stated.

This spring, the Lakers, Johnson and George were hardly shy about expressing their mutual admiration. George, who is from the Los Angeles area, had his agent convey to the Pacers in June that he preferred to play for the Lakers and that he would not return to Indiana when his contract expired after the 2017-18 season. George has often spoken of his friendship with Johnson and, shortly after his intention to leave the Pacers was announced, Johnson tweeted: “God is so good!” On an episode of ESPN’s “The Jump” this summer, reporter Brian Windhorst said, “the Lakers have all but put up a billboard announcing they want to sign” George.

A nudge-nudge, wink-wink filled interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in April also attracted the league’s interest. Johnson acknowledged to Kimmel in the interview that he’d like to get George but added that, you know, talking about that would be wrong.

“I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA [collective bargaining agreement] school, salary cap school and tampering school,” he said with a laugh of learning how to be a team president. “You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”

Kimmel pressed Magic, asking what would happen if he ran into George socially somewhere. As one does.

“We going to say hi because we know each other, you just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink-winking like, ‘You know what that means, right?’ ”

The league acknowledged that moment in its statement.

“The penalty reflected a previous warning issued by the NBA to the Lakers regarding tampering following comments made by Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin Johnson about Paul George during an April 20 national television appearance,” according to the memo, while acknowledging that no preplanned deal was unearthed. “The investigation did not reveal evidence of an agreement or understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire Mr. George.”

Tampering, according to Article 35 of the NBA’s Constitution and Bylaws, occurs when a team or its representative attempts to persuade a player, coach, trainer, general manager or any other person who is under contract with another team to join the tampering team. Anyone, even a player, can tamper and can be punished. Allegations are investigated and must be supported by evidence. Punishment can include fines, suspensions, forfeiture of draft picks and transfers of draft picks from the tampering team to the victimized team. Tampering by a player can result in a suspension by the commissioner and a fine of up to $50,000. The investigation was conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

“The NBA’s anti-tampering rule prohibits teams from interfering with other teams’ contractual relationships with NBA players,” the statement said, “including by publicly expressing interest in a player who is currently under contract with another team or informing the agent of another’s player of interest by one’s own team in that player.”

While the fine isn’t insignificant from the league’s perspective — it is the largest fine in any case like this in league history, those that don’t include a player or executive having already joined the team in question — it isn’t one the Lakers, arguably the league’s most profitable team, will have trouble paying.

“A drop in the bucket,” said a rival executive in a text message Wednesday.

Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.

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Lakers fined $500000 for Paul George tampering, largest-ever penalty of its kind – Washington Post

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