The Los Angeles Lakers have already been fined twice for tampering since Magic Johnson took over the team, although one of the times wasn’t Magic’s fault, and the other time didn’t really seem to be tampering, given that he said Giannis Antetokounmpo would win a championship “in Milwaukee.”
Still, those two incidents at the very least mean the league is watching Johnson and the Lakers closely, and one of the most endearing things about Johnson is how he hasn’t let that deter him from letting Lakers exceptionalism flow through his every interview.
On Fox Sports’ pregame show before the Dodgers played in the World Series on Saturday night — the same place Johnson made declarations about the Lakers getting a major free agent last year — he called his shot once again:
“I’m gonna get another superstar next year!”
That statement didn’t seem to be tampering by even the loosest definition, but it will be interesting to see how the league reacts to Johnson having the following exchange:
“Last year at the same time, World Series, you guys had me on and we were talking about who I might bring to the Lakers... And you guys got me LeBron! (laughs)”
*a picture of Ortiz with Kevin Durant and LeBron both wearing Lakers jerseys*
”Hey, hey, I love that (more laughter)!”
Although Johnson did follow it up with this:
“I’ve already been fined enough.”
We’ll see if the NBA agrees, although the following defenses would seem to work in Johnson’s favor: He never said anyone’s name, so maybe he’s just a fake jersey photoshop image enthusiast! He may have just been admiring the graphic design work.
More convincing of an argument, though, would be recent situations in which owners or team personnel have avoided tampering for much more explicit comments. Take this, from Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, to SB Nation’s own Steven Godfrey on Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler:
What’s more, Fertitta has yet to make a move that would make them his Rockets.
“Like what?” he asks.
Like if Kevin Durant elects to leave Golden State next year, maybe that?
“Ah. Like Jimmy Butler,” he says.
This is days before it breaks publicly that Timberwolves star Butler wants out of Minnesota.
Or this, from the same profile:
“We would love to see Jimmy come home to Houston. It’s not a financial decision, it’s an assets decision on our part. We’ve got a great basketball team. We think we’re as good as anybody in the league. We’re not going to give up unreasonable assets, to break up this team, to get Jimmy Butler. But we would love to have him.”
Fertitta has not been fined for those comments, and given that they came before the season started, it seems unlikely he’s going to be. If that’s not tampering, than what Johnson said certainly doesn’t seem to be.
Now we wait and see if the league agrees, although even if they do fine the Lakers, Johnson’s guarantees are still worth getting excited about given his track record at delivering on such grand proclamations.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.