A report surfaced Saturday night that the NBA was investigating whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers tampered with 2018 free agent Paul George at the Indiana Pacers’ behest, allegations Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Lakers “adamantly deny.”
The team didn’t officially come out that strongly against the allegations, but did issue a statement on the reports.
"As the NBA's statement made clear, we cannot comment about the specifics of any ongoing investigation. We can confirm, however, that we are cooperating fully with the NBA in the hope of clearing our name as soon as possible.”
The league is reportedly using an “independent law firm” to interview Lakers president Jeanie Buss, general manager Rob Pelinka and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, who have to turn over any correspondence they’ve had with George or his agent.
If the league finds the Lakers guilty of tampering, Wojnarowski reports the team could potentially lose draft picks or be fined “up to $5 million” or even face “future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials,” all of which (especially the third thing) would put a damper on their ability to sign George and another max free agent in 2018.
Noteworthy will be how hard the league looks into contact between Lakers officials and George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, who also represented former Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell and current Lakers power forward Julius Randle. The team is obviously allowed to have contact with Mintz due to having player(s) he reps, but how much documentation is there over what exactly they talked about, and how will the league view that correspondence?
It’s also obviously unknown for now what type of contact the Lakers did or didn’t have with George or his representatives behind the scenes, but at least part of the league’s investigation will probably also hinge on whether or not this interview president of basketball operations Magic Johnson had with Jimmy Kimmel is found to be over the line (add that to the list of sentences I never thought I’d type in my career):
Pacers file charges against Lakers for tampering with Paul George, per @PeterVecsey1: https://t.co/0hP1g7DnIm— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) August 20, 2017
Remember Magic's "wink wink?" pic.twitter.com/Y4mtAvgcK1
The Lakers are in the middle of August with a nearly full roster and training camp still weeks away, but their future could hinge on events that won’t take place anywhere near the basketball court over the next several weeks.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen