The Los Angeles Lakers have a plan in place to free up enough cap room to potentially sign two max-level free agents next summer, but that plan could be in jeopardy thanks to allegations of tampering from the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers are suggesting that the Lakers made contact with forward Paul George, who ultimately was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a paltry return. Many teams around the league believe that George will sign with the Lakers in the summer of 2018, and as a result, they were unwilling to offer up much in a trade for him.
According to a recent report by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the NBA’s investigation into the tampering charges is centered around Magic Johnson, who is the Lakers President of Basketball Operations. Should Johnson and the Lakers be found guilty, the penalties could be stiff:
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
Of course, finding conclusive evidence that the Lakers are guilty of tampering won’t be easy, but the league is doing a full investigation. The Lakers haven’t made their plans to chase after top free agents next summer a secret, and George will be one of the best players on the market, so it doesn’t take any back-channel dealing for the star swingman to know that the door to Los Angeles will be open for him.
Should the league find them guilty and decide to go with a stronger punishment than just fines it could be devastating for Los Angeles.
Without the ability to sign George, they could have a more difficult time convincing other free agents to sign as well, and future picks are major assets that the team badly needs. For now, all the team can do is wait for the league’s findings to be released.