The Los Angeles Lakers have been hit with a hefty $500,000 fine for tampering with Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George before the trade while he was still with the Indiana Pacers. Teams are forbidden from reaching out or openly discussing players under contract with other teams.
Even though George expressed his desire to join the Lakers when his contract expires after this season, Lakers officials are not allowed to influence him directly in any way. An investigation by the NBA revealed unauthorized contact between Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka and George’s agent.
“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,” stated the league in their official announcement.
The investigation originally centered on Lakers President Magic Johnson, who openly talked about his desire to sign George, though explicitly stating that discussing such things would be wrong. The whole interview was a big wink-wink nudge-nudge to George, and it sparked the investigation which led to a record fine of half a million dollars.
“We going to say hi because we know each other, you just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink-winking like, ‘You know what that means, right?’”
While the investigation revealed behavior the NBA considered fine-worthy, it found evidence “of an agreement or understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire Mr. George.”
While the rumors have been swirling about George’s eventual landing place in L.A., there must be something that gave the Thunder hope in trading for him. For what it’s worth, George admitted that there’s a chance he stays in OKC.
“I grew up a Lakers and a Clippers fan. I idolize Kobe [Bryant],” said George. “There will always be a tie here, a connection here. People saying I want to come here, if you’re a kid growing up on the outskirts of L.A., to be the man in your city. But it’s definitely been overstated. For me, it’s all about winning. I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it.”
Considering before the trade, George warned teams not to trade for him because he’ll be heading to L.A., I’m not sure how much those statements are worth. Poor Thunder. They can’t seem to hold anyone down. I wonder what Russ has planned?