The NBA isn’t down with dirty-macking. The league has strict rules to protect against “tampering,” or trying to recruit a player who’s still under contract with another team.
So while the Los Angeles Lakers fully expect all-star forward Paul George to join them for the 2018-2019 season after he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, it is still against the rules for them to have any contact with the Palmdale, Calif. native until July.
According to the league, the Lakers will have to pay a $500,000 fine after investigators found proof that Lakers GM Rob Pelinka had been in touch with George’s agent, directly violating the anti-tampering code.
George was traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder in June, despite the Lakers’ efforts to acquire him via trade. Los Angeles was warned once by the league to stop tampering with George in April, after Magic Johnson joked on Jimmy Kimmel Live about possibly wooing George, who was still signed to the Pacers at the time. The Hall of Famer became Lakers team president in March, and he’s been one of George’s idols since the 27-year-old baller was a boy.
The Pacers filed tampering charges with the league around the June NBA Draft over concern about Magic’s recruitment efforts, but so far, the investigation has only revealed evidence of foul play from Pelinka.
If further queries prove that there was more contact between George and the team, the $500,000 fine could get worse; it could even cost them future draft picks.
But the worst case scenario for everyone comes if investigators find evidence of an under-the-table deal between George and the team. If there is proof of a side agreement being made before free agency, George could be completely banned from joining the team – whether by free agency or by trade.