Paul George is not a member of the the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet.
The California native has one year to go on his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder after being traded there by the Indiana Pacers. Rumors have been swirling for months about whether George would stay in Indiana, a new city, or if he would bolt for his hometown in LA after the upcoming season comes to a close.
Even more rumors have said that the Lakers have felt confident enough that they are going to get George in the summer of 2018 that they weren’t grabbing him wasn’t considered so urgent that it was a matter of life or death.
Meanwhile, the NBA has confirmed that the Pacers have filed tampering charges against the Lakers, and that the league has hired an independent law firm to conduct the investigation.
From the NBA’s press release:
At the request of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA opened an investigation into alleged tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers. The independent investigation is being conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The Lakers have been cooperative and, at this point, no findings have been made. We have asked both teams to refrain from commenting all the investigation is ongoing.
The rumor first broke this weekend when Peter Vecsey published it on his Patreon.
Magic Johnson has spoken publicly about George, explicitly stating that he knows he is not supposed to tamper with players. However, on an episode of the Jimmy Kimmel show, Johnson did say that he would give a wink to George if you happen to see him.
Via Jimmy Kimmel:
“I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school. You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”
“We gonna 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?’
Punishment from tampering charges are rare in the NBA but are not unheard of. In 2013, the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings were fined for name dropping Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.
According to ESPN, Johnson is at the center of the investigation for tampering with George. If evidence is found, the punishment could be significant for LA, and could include future restrictions when it comes time to acquire George.
The Lakers are denying the allegations filed by the Pacers, insisting that there is no evidence of tampering, and they expect to be cleared in the matter, a team source told ESPN.
If the league office’s probe can prove the Lakers were guilty of tampering with George while under contract with Indiana, Los Angeles can be punished in several ways, including a loss of draft picks, financial fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.
It’s still unclear at this point if anything is going to come out of this investigation, but it certainly does seem as though Los Angeles is confident that they are going to be able to sign George next summer.