On the Lakers, the Pacers, Paul George, and Tampering

Darius Soriano —  August 21, 2017

So, here’s what we know. The Pacers have asked the NBA to investigate the Lakers for tampering. This is related to Paul George who, after relaying to the Pacers front office that he intended to exercise his FA rights next summer and that his preferred destination would be the Lakers, was traded by the Pacers to the Thunder. So, Paul George is no longer a Pacer and is not (yet, at least) a Laker, but now the latter is being investigated because the former asked the league to do so.

Both the NBA and the Lakers have issued statements on this matter, but the can be summarized as such: The NBA says the Pacers asked them to do this, an independent law firm is handling the investigation, and no wrongdoing has yet been found; The Lakers are saying they’re cooperating, but cannot comment further on an ongoing investigation, and hope their name will be cleared soon.

So, that’s that, right?

Well, not so fast.

First, it’s important to note two things. First, Magic Johnson did, by the letter of law, tamper in relation to Paul George. He did this when he appeared on a late night talk show and then used a fake scenario to show how he’d express interest in George to be a Laker by hinting at it because, you know, you he doesn’t want to tamper. Except, you know, by even saying that he’s tampering. Second, there are levels to tampering. There’s what Magic did on Kimmel and then there’s more severe stuff.

It should be noted, the league is likely looking into what that more severe stuff might be. Like calling George’s agent and talking specifically about George. Or calling George himself. Or calling George’s family/parents. This type of contact is a no-no and can be punishable by a lot of severe things — high dollar fines, loss of draft picks, or even a ruling that the Lakers cannot sign George…like ever.

These things are all bad and, if the Lakers were dumb enough to do any of the above things, they’d probably deserve any of the above. After all, Magic going on TV and being jovial uncle Magic Johnson and doing exaggerated winking is one thing. Having documented conversations with any of the people above about George? That’s quite another. Rob Pelinka is a former agent, he knows this well already. Also, him and Magic went to “CBA school” in NY at the league’s office and, I’m guessing, this stuff was covered extensively. So, both should know better. And, if they didn’t, their bad. Being a lead decision maker for an NBA franchise doesn’t come with “do overs” when it comes to these things. You break the rules, you pay the consequences.

Now, all that said, proving this stuff can end up being difficult. Paul George shares an agent with Julius Randle and former Laker D’Angelo Russell. The FO calling said agent can just as easily be about those players (and, remember, Russell did get traded so keeping his agent in the loop could easily be a thing that happened). Unless these calls were recorded, good luck proving there were any conversations about George. Now, if emails were written or texts sent or if calls were made to George himself or his family…yeah, that’s a mistake and they’ll pay for that. Probably severely, which is what leads me to believe they would not have done those things.

If I had to guess, then, I’d say nothing comes out of this. That, though, is just me guessing. So, I’ll still wait to see what comes about this and hang back without making any final judgements. These charges are serious enough that I believe that’s really the best way to handle this.

Lastly, there was a report today that other small market teams are happy the Pacers have taken the approach they have; that teams are “championing” the Pacers for having the league look into this matter. On the one hand, I can see this. Tampering is a real problem in the NBA and everyone knows it. I mean, you think teams come to agreements with FA’s at 12:01am on July 1st after just calling them right then? Of course not – agents and teams are working back channels way in advance of July 1st and basically have the framework of these deals agreed to. If teams think this needs to be cleaned up, I can see them applauding the Pacers for wanting this looked into.

On the other hand, small market teams getting excited about the Lakers potentially getting dinged is…predictable. Maybe I’m being sensitive to this, but I remember when Gregg Popovich said the Pau Gasol trade was a joke and should be rescinded. I remember Dan Gilbert writing Commissioner Stern a letter/email complaining about the Chris Paul trade and then, related or not, Stern issuing his “veto”. I tire of small market owners looking at big markets as the enemy or some sort of bogeyman that must be beat back through attempts at legislated parity.

The Lakers and other big market, rich teams cut huge revenue sharing checks that help those small market teams turn a profit. The Lakers — both Dr. Buss and, now Jeanie Buss — have voted for CBA’s that go against their own self interests in order to show solidarity with all the owners in attempts to do what was “best” for the league. They’ve earned respect at the Governors’ and Commissioner level because of this. But, it seems, those checks and that respect only goes so far to some. That when the Lakers find ways to live on the edges of the rules — something that many (all?) teams have done and continue to do — they get backlash and their accusers get congratulatory phone calls for trying to…stick it to the man?

Anyways, I’ll get off my soapbox now. We’ll see how this investigation plays out. But, in all honesty, what I’d love is that this all turns up nothing and 12 months from now George is a Laker anyway.

Darius Soriano

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to On the Lakers, the Pacers, Paul George, and Tampering

  1. First, no more appearances on Kimmel’s show by any of the Lakers. They have nothing to gain and he has nothing to lose. In regards to George, I hope KCP comes back all the way from his injury and becomes a must sign next summer and that Ingram learns to shoot well enough to be a threat from the 3 point line. If those hold true than George may not be needed anyway. I am pumped up for the players the Lakers have and would like to see them build through the draft.


  2. Darius, it’s hard for me to imagine serious consequences for the Lakers, but I feel that you have laid out the issues and possibilities very well. I just hope that the investigation will not last more than a week or two.

    Fingers crossed.


  3. It’s ridiculous to think that the Pacers would ask the league to investigate a team that Paul George isn’t even playing for (yet). At this point, the Lakers signing PG in 2018 is the Thunder’s problem. Maybe the league should investigate the Pacers for agreeing to such a crappy deal for their star player. Did Indiana have some sort of wink wink deal with Oladipo to bring him back to the state of his alma mater? This is a slippery slope for the Pacers to go down. What player or agent is going to want to deal with a FO that’s going to snitch to the league when things don’t go their way?


  4. All I know it wasn’t that long ago that Mitch caught flak for being too belts and suspenders about following the rules and not tampering. *shrug*


  5. La liga debe ser neutral y no debe dejarse manipular por nadie aqui debe haber un culpable los lakers si se prueba que fueron ellos y indiana por la acusacion sin pruebas y que se reinvindiquen a los lakers. El dueño de indiana no debe de curpar a otros por el descontentos de sus jugadores. He dicho


  6. Don’t have a good feeling about the outcome of this charge. In recent seasons it appears talking about switching teams has become more open than ever. Yes, I realize most of it is player driven, but still I can’t believe the NBA loves that type of talk.

    Lakers may be used as an example to “tone down” such conversations.

    Hoping I’m wrong 🙁


  7. Amazing that the big criticism of Kupchak was that he was unable to sign any big name free agents because he refused to play backroom games, but Magic is immediately slapped with an investigation when he does.


  8. I have a bad feeling about this. Seeing how the NFL handles its investigations… hopefully the NBA won’t make the same mistakes, but I could see them making an example out of the Lakers.


  9. The penalty is that we will have to undo the DAR trade. The NBA has to be consistent when screwing us.


  10. Let’s see the Pacers were forced to trade Paul George to OKC for peanuts because Magic winked @ Kimmel? Am I getting that right? The Pacers brought this upon themselves and the Lakers have not tampered in anyway … but the league and teams are definitely always trying to block us whenever they can. Our FO plays “team ball” but dam we seem to always get the short end of the stick when it comes to League matters. Gilbert is next when LeBron bolts for LakerLand…I’m sure Cuban manufacture a reason and will take a swipe too!


  11. I’m thinking a monetary fine for magic ruffling feathers on TV would be a pleasant escape.We are close,Damn close to righting this ship.No Stupid Mistakes,We have payed as fans in full.


  12. Celtics are trading a lot for Kyrie………… IMO.


    • Celtics got the best player as they make a push for serious contention. Getting the best player is what you want when you have more unproven rookies and draft picks than you know what to do with. Irving’s contract is also cheap beyond this year. The Cavs got a side kick for Lebron this year, a budget friendly 2 way player, and multiple young pieces for the inevitable rebuild after next year. Looks pretty good to me all the way around with everyone getting what they really needed.


      • I agree with you and with Clay. A lower pick or none would have made more sense. But it is a logical win-win trade, just not a fire sale that typically happens in similar situations. Seems to me Danny Ainge showed his regret for not including better picks for Butler by making sure Irving would be got.


      • I’m surprised by what the Cavs got for Irving but agree he’s an excellent get for the Celtics and well worth what they gave up, for the reasons outlined by Vasheed above. Danny had to make this deal. It makes my skin crawl how good the Celtics are now.


  13. Teams will continue to want to talk to the Lakers, but the Pacers??? That’s another question.

    Unless the Pacers already had some specific evidence in hand – the TV show just isn’t much of any evidence, other than to emphasize that almost any team would like to be able to consider Paul George – then they appear to be in this to embarrass the Lakers. All any embarrassment will do is insure players are more circumspect when dealing with the Lakers, and this is a good thing for the Lakers.


  14. I suspect that teams around the league were being told that George is going to be a Laker next year, and is only a one year rental. And that depressed his trade value. Not his desire to leave Indy (Cleveland got a good haul for Irving) but his desire to go to one team.

    So the question will be, who was passing this on, what was the chain of communication, can the Lakers be faulted in any way? That could lead to serious penalties.

    That or a picture of Magic having pancakes with George at Norm’s to go over the details of his 18-19 contract.


  15. The most NBA could levy at the Lakers would be a fine because many teams are guilty too in expressing their interests on players of other teams in an open discussion. If Magic was guilty on guilty on Kimmel interview, how many GM are equally guilty in talking to ESPN or Woj of their intentions while those players are still under contract. Houston talking openly about Melo and Portland too. I think Pacers here are just sour grapes after losing George and they were not the preferred team.
    On the other hand, it’s a better strategy for Magic/Rob to plan quietly than telegraphing their intentions in ’18. It is now moot, but supposing their goals didn’t go through bec/ good or bad outcome, the opposing teams have chance to prepare in advance too and Laker players on the trading block diminish their loyalty but opt instead for self preservation than wholehearted commitment to the Lakers.

    Mitch was in his greatest moments in hatching bargains and made surprise trades without any hints from fans and foes alike. He was in his lowest ebb when pleasing an inept boss and has no backbone to just say No, in implementing a bad strategy.


    • I disagree with your opinion than the worst the Lakers will get is a fine. Obviously you are not aware of the level of damages they can and most-likely will incur. As I mentioned in my solo post, the Pacers have overwhelming evidence of tampering. This has NOTHING to do with the trade for Victor Olidipo and Victor Sabonis whom, might I add, are very talented players that work hard, that want to win, that will do everything in their power to improve and that will do what it takes to make the team better. In fact, I am one of few who love the trade and feel the Pacers actually did a wonderful job getting these players. Sure Paul George is talented, but he also has his issues as he is not a gritty player, he does not make players better around him, he is not a leader, he is too concerned with his image and getting respect, and based upon his dishonorable conduct of making his future plans known in a public manner, he clearly does not have the integrity that a franchise wants to build around. On top of that, I do not think he is worth $30-$35 million per year. I prefer players who are team-first instead of me-first and because of what I have seen these past several years, I’m glad he’s gone. As they say in acting, I say to Paul George: Go break a leg.


  16. I agree with what old timer is saying. When Pelinka says he is going after two max guys it sets him up for failure and makes current players look expendable. Just say you are creating flexibility for next summer.


  17. First, let me share that I am not tied to the Pacers organization other than being a serious fan who has access to information and do a great deal of research.

    This tampering issue is real and goes beyond Magic Johnson’s interview on the Jimmy Kimmel (sp) show. The evidence is overwhelming to say the least and based upon what I have found, it will warrant a major impact for years to come to the Lakers franchise. I am disappointed this happened in the first place as the Lakers brass did not need to conduct themselves in violation of the NBA rules for if they kept their course,in due time they would have created another class team in the NBA.

    Sadly, the Lakers are going to take a big hit and it’s going to cause a lot of strain on the franchise where the fans will have to endure these issues for another 4-5 years. While I am a big Pacers fan, I don’t necessarily buy into this big market vs medium market (or small market) competitive inbalance for if teams are great with quality players in this age of internet and social media, players can play for smaller markets and still get paid big money in contracts, endorsements and by other associated means such as jersey sales. While I know that many feel that being a part of a franchise like the Lakers or Knicks brings in certain benefits, there is a huge distinction between those markets than Indianapolis where the cost of living is considerably lower, the people are laid back, players can go about their lives without media and fans hounding them and this all brings a sense of peace among the players to live a more private life. Also, there are many professional athletes that live in and around Indianapolis due to the reasons listed above and while I have met many of them, I never ask for autographs or harass them because I just view them as just regular people who are talented in a certain trade and I respect their privacy.

    In any case, I am giving my deepest regards to Laker fans. You should never had to experience these issues and I do hope that you, in a collective voice, make sure that you let them know that such actions are totally unacceptable.


    • A Horse With No Name August 25, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Beautiful troll. The self identified insider angle, the appeal to fairness and justice, the extended sympathies given for the hammer that will surely fall. Impressive. Meanwhile, the lakers in a short statement, said they are confident they will cleared by the investigators. I’m going with the lakers here. Get back to trolling bass!


  18. I sympathize the situation of the Pacers in losing George, you could have traded him to the Cavs for Irving. That is now a water under the bridge so enjoy your new players.

    In the case of George, he was the one who said that he wanted to come back home and play with the team he grew up with. Lakers didn’t get George, so why blame Magic/Rob on tampering? There is no guarantee that he will be a Laker in 2018 or the succeeding year. With modesty aside, Lakers would like to snatch all Superstars in the league. That is not a brag but just an high bar objective expected by avid fans from our front office. I think you’re barking at the wrong tree and appear to be sour grapes. Blame George for his loud wishful thinking while still under contract with the Pacers.

    The best move for Pacers is to just move on and learn to count your blessings for a better future. We understand that ordeal, forming a Championship team is not that easy, there may be good years and a long lean years. Just keep on trying. C’est la vie.


  19. A bunch of good points here and what our front office needs to recognize is,( Loose Lips Sink Ships) Mitch had this totally under control to his credit.Hopefully our young players enthusiasm and loyalty and friendships haven’t been diminished Because they think that they are gone no matter what.Take care of Our Squad.


  20. Rumors of LBJ coming to Lakers with an ownership stake. Yuck.
    Hope it doesn’t happen.
    First off, can’t stand the guy.
    Second, it’ll be a high cost purchase of his career downside. Haven’t the Lakers learned anything?
    Glimmer of hope: he’s supposedly tight with West. Maybe he’ll become a Clipper instead. Instead of following in Kobe’s footsteps, he can (try to) bring the Clips their first title.