The NBA league office has slapped the Los Angeles Lakers with another hefty tampering fine on Tuesday for comments made by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson on rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo in an interview with ESPN’s Nick Friedell in late January.
Here is the full quote from Johnson from the ESPN interview:
“Oh yeah,” Johnson told ESPN recently. “With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates. That’s where we [have the] same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play. I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”
Sounds harmless, right? So much so that the Milwaukee Bucks shared an excerpt from the interview on their team Instagram:
So why such a harsh fine on a seemingly harmless comment? Well if you can remember back to August, the Lakers were fined $500,000 for allegedly violating the league’s anti-tampering rules with Paul George, who was with the Indiana Pacers at the time. The $500,000 tampering fine was the largest tampering fine in NBA history.
While George insisted there was “nothing there,” the Lakers’ involvement in tampering in the past, specifically with Johnson, is probably why the NBA was so strict in their interpretation of tampering this time around. Had the Lakers not been repeat offenders, we probably wouldn’t be hearing about this.
The Lakers will pay $50,000 for violating the NBA’s anti-tampering rules, a slap on the wrist as a warning to a front office under the microscope after the George dust-up. If Magic likes his money, he’d be best laying low until free agency opens on July 1.