The NBA has essentially institutionalized tampering. If that wasn’t true before they gave the Lakers a $500,000 fine for tampering with Paul George (aka the most expensive slap on the wrist in human history), it certainly is afterwards.
Basically every team already skirts the rules. Players do it, as was the case with Draymond Green openly recruiting Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors after the 2016 NBA Finals. Former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was even criticized for NOT doing it, a factor in his eventual ouster from his post last year.
The guys that took over for Kupchak, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, got dinged for tampering with Paul George when the latter was found to have made inappropriate contact with George’s agent. Johnson may have taken responsibility for that “transgression” and offered the pay the fine out of his own salary, but according to a few anonymous NBA executives quoted by Ric Bucher in his opus on tampering he shouldn’t have to, because basically every team does this and the Lakers were just unlucky enough to do so with a team petty enough to complain:
"If you're not cheating by the letter of the law," says one former GM, "you're not trying."
Adds a current Eastern Conference GM: "You don't get free agents without it. [Tampering] is what the whole league is built on. That's the only way you can get anything done."
That's why the executives contacted by B/R were surprised the Pacers demanded an investigation by the league at all. One called it "bush league." Several others opined that the Pacers must've had some hard-proof evidence. Almost all presumed owner Herb Simon was simply too irate about George's proclamation that he would leave in free agency to let him go quietly.
Simon now is reportedly considering losing a lawsuit against the Lakers, but it sounds like the people Bucher spoke with would probably caution against that just as they would’ve cautioned against filing charges in the first place:
"You better be careful what you ask for," says the former GM. "That kind of disclosure becomes a two-way street. You sure you want the league to look at every phone call and email you've sent?"
Maybe the Pacers have taken Kupchak’s place as the last boy scouts, but probably not, and so they probably should be careful so the Lakers aren’t tempted to levy charges at them the next time Indiana signs a superstar free agent.
Oh wait, that would never happen. Never mind, the Pacers are probably safe even if they’re still being petty as hell to keep this up after they already traded their best player ever for a rich man’s Jordan Clarkson and a half a sandwich.