The Indiana Pacers can no longer count Paul George among their ranks, and the team thinks the Los Angeles Lakers are at least partially to blame.
Indy traded George to the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason for an embarrassingly paltry return this offseason, not long after the four-time All-Star informed the Pacers he wouldn’t be returning after 2017-18, the last season of his contract. The Lakers were reportedly his preferred free agency destination.
Now they’ve formally accused the Lakers of tampering with George—of contacting him to recruit him while he’s still under contract.
“At the request of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA opened an investigation into alleged tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers,” the league said in a statement. “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 while the investigation is ongoing.”
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the league is focusing on Lakers legend and relatively new general manager Magic Johnson.
Sources: Pacers filed tampering charges vs. Lakers, probe centered on possible impermissible contact between Magic Johnson and Paul George.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 20, 2017
“As the NBA’s statement made clear, we cannot comment about the specifics of any ongoing investigation,” the Lakers said in a released statement. “We can confirm, however, that we are cooperating fully with the NBA in the hope of clearing our name as soon as possible.”
Woj and Ramona Shelburne reported that punishments could include “a loss of draft picks, financial fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials. … If the NBA were to find evidence that the Lakers had engaged in a side agreement with George, he could be prohibited from signing a free-agent deal with Los Angeles or being part of a trade to the Lakers.”
In an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Johnson said he was still learning the rules surrounding tampering while intimating he’d be able to keep it together in a hypothetical run-in with George. Johnson said he’d give a suggestive week.
Remember Magic’s “wink wink?” pic.twitter.com/Y4mtAvgcK1
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) August 20, 2017
This does not qualify as tampering. For anything to stick, investigators would likely have to find inappropriate contact between the two parties in writing, which seems unlikely.