Last summer, the Lakers were hit with a $500,000 fine when Lakers president Magic Johnson went on the Jimmy Kimmel show and “wink, wink” talked about bringing Paul George to the Los Angeles. It was pretty clear he was going to get fined by the league for tampering the second the words came out of his mouth, even if that had 0.0 percent chance of impacting PG13’s decision.
Last week, Magic and the Lakers were hit with a $50,000 fine because Magic had been asked to comment on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Magic praised him as a future MVP and someone who could win titles — never mentioning bringing him to the Lakers once. The comments were as innocuous and positive as could be.
Was that really worth a fine? Rachel Nichols asked NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that on ESPN’s The Jump Thursday, and Silver basically said this had to be a fine.
“Context is everything, and there had been a prior issue with the Lakers early this season,” Silver said. “And the message is — not just to Magic but to all the executives in the league is — stop talking about players on other teams…
“We’d love to hear players like Magic Johnson talk about how great young players are in the league,” Silver said. “But there’s enough commentary out there. And I think, when on balance, just asking them to refrain from that one aspect of talking about other players, isn’t that big a deal.”
How the NBA treats tampering is dated. At best.
Tampering in the NBA is rampant. Front offices and agents know how to do the dance to avoid NBA scrutiny, but there is a river of conversations between players and teams through back channels, we in the media only get some canteens filled out of that river that we report. Dodging the tampering rules is easy. Besides, if a team wants to recruit a guy they can have one of their players do it for them — if Golden State GM Bob Myer texts Kevin Durant a couple of summers ago it’s tampering, but if Draymond Green texts Durant right after the end of the NBA Finals saying they need him, that’s all good.
If Magic Johnson said the Greek Freak is a great player, so what? There has to be some leeway here, Magic is a true legend of the game. Don’t tie his hands.