The Los Angeles Lakers have been accused of tampering by the Indiana Pacers and the NBA is investigating the matter. The Pacers allege that the Lakers had interactions with forward Paul George before he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
According to an ESPN report, the league’s investigation is largely focused on Magic Johnson, who is the President of Basketball Operations for Los Angeles.
The Lakers are reportedly cooperating fully with the investigation and believe that they will be cleared of any wrongdoing. The team issued the following statement on Sunday afternoon:
“As the NBA statement made clear, we cannot comment about the specifics of any ongoing investigation. We can confirm, however, that we are cooperating fully with the NBA in the hope of clearing our name as soon as possible.”
Should the Lakers be found guilty of tampering, the possible consequences could include fines, loss of draft picks, and potentially not being allowed to sign George for a pre-determined amount of time. While no team enjoys being fined, one would have to imagine that the Lakers would greatly prefer that punishment to losing valuable draft picks, or worse, not being able to sign George.
George reportedly told the Pacers in June that he would be leaving the team in free agency in 2018 and that Los Angeles would be his likely destination. As a result, Indiana began negotiating trades for their star, ultimately sending him to Oklahoma City in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
It was a shocking trade that left many around the league scratching their heads at the deal, with most believing that the Pacers received far too little for George.
The Pacers believe the market for George was weakened because teams didn’t want to part with major assets for a player who would simply bolt for Los Angeles less than a year later. Whether or not the Lakers had any role to play in that has yet to be seen, but the NBA’s investigation should get to the bottom of it.