Lakers found guilty of tampering with Paul George, fined $500,000 following investigation

Following an independent investigation into the communication of the Los Angeles Lakers and Paul George, the Lakers have been fined $500,000 for tampering.

On August 20, the NBA announced that it was looking into the situation at the request of the Pacers. The investigation was conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz out of New York.

The Pacers were first suspicious when Magic Johnson appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in April and winked that he’d be interested in getting George, then with the Pacers, to the Lakers.

Then, after Pacers President Kevin Pritchard had several conversations with George about the team’s future, the draft, and free agents they were targeting, George’s agent (Aaron Mintz) informed Pritchard that George would not exercise his player option for the 2018-19 season. That meant after this upcoming season, George would go elsewhere.

The team appreciated the heads-up, although they didn’t understand his sudden change of heart. What negatively impacted George’s trade value was it getting out that he hoped to sign with the Lakers once his contract was up after the season.

And, one of the biggest challenges was the timing. That message was relayed to Pritchard less than a week before the 2017 NBA Draft in June (and one day after he said he was committed to winning a title with the team while in Indy for a celebrity softball game.)

Two months ago, Pritchard traded George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

[Pritchard on trading George: ‘It was difficult both on a personal and professional level’

From the NBA:

The NBA announced today that it has fined the Los Angeles Lakers $500,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule.  This action followed an independent investigation by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

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 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.

The investigation did not reveal evidence of an agreement or understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire Mr. George.

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

Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka issued the following statement: “We respect and accept the NBA’s decision regarding this matter. On behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers, I want to express our regret over this unfortunate incident to both our fans and the NBA.”

Translation: “Okay. It was worth it.”

The Pacers will not be commenting publicly on the NBA’s decision, a team spokesman said.

Go ahead and circle their two meetings on your calendar this season:
Jan. 19 in Los Angeles and March 19 in Indianapolis.

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