The league office, via the independent investigation they instituted at the behest of the Indiana Pacers, have fined the Lakers $500K for tampering. Here is their statement:
First things first, I’m glad this is now over. Tampering allegations are serious and can carry a burden of uncertainty and worry while investigations are under way. The fact the league has now issued a ruling allows for things to return to a bit of normalcy.
Second, while a $500K fine is significant, it’s much lower than the maximum allowed $5 million. It’s more than other teams have been fined in the past, but not so huge a number to reflect anything more than the NBA really telling the Lakers they messed up by acting outside the lines of the rules.
I’d add, too, that for a big market, huge revenue producing team like the Lakers, $500K is something I do believe they’ll happily eat that to make this go away. It’s not a small number, but…remember, the Lakers pay upwards of $50 million a year to the league in revenue sharing. They have a local TV deal that pays them (reportedly) $200 million a year and up to $5 billion over 20 years. The Lakers, when looked at from this angle, print money. Again, this isn’t to diminish the amount of the fine, but it does put it into perspective.
Lastly, a key line from the NBA’s statement is that “The investigation did not reveal evidence of an agreement or understanding the Lakers would sign or acquire Mr. George.” In other words, they may have spoken with George and/or his representatives, but they did not make an illegal deal. That’s why this punishment is only a fine. If the league had more dirt, the Lakers would have been hit harder. Not just a higher dollar fine, but likely draft pick compensation and, potentially, an inability to sign George at all…ever.
None of that happened. So, all in all, this might be the best case scenario. After all, we knew the Lakers tampered. Magic Johnson going on TV and talking about another team’s player is tampering. Any logical playing out of this was going to have the Lakers getting punished in some way. Fining them, then, is about the best anyone can hope for.