The ruling of the Los Angeles Lakers tampering investigation came down on the organization by way of a $500,000 fine that feels more like an appeasement of NBA owners than an actual punishment for L.A.
The Lakers were fined $500,000 for General Manager Rob Pelinka’s minor tampering of L.A. native Paul George.
When the Indiana Pacers originally filed tampering charges against Los Angeles it seemed nothing would come from the investigation because tampering is hard to prove.
In the Lakers’ case, the $500,000 fine is the largest in league history for a tampering charge. Mark Medina of the Orange County Register reports that Pelinka was cited for communication with George’s agent.
“The NBA alleged in a statement that General Manager Rob Pelinka spoke with George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, and offered ‘a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract.’”
Although the league claims Pelinka tampered with George’s agent, they also admitted the investigation “did not reveal evidence of an agreement or understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire George.”
Shortly after the ruling the Lakers issued a brief statement:
Rob Pelinka: “We respect and accept the NBA’s decision regarding this matter. On behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers, I want to express our regret over this unfortunate incident to both our fans and the NBA.”
Adam Streisand: “The Lakers organization is pleased that this thorough investigation has been brought to a close – and we can assure the fans that the Lakers will be hyper-vigilant going forward to make sure this is never an issue again.”
The NBA’s punishment was upheld because L.A. was issued a warning after Magic Johnson publicly showed interest in George on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Had it not been for Johnson’s wink on television, Pelinka’s communication with Mintz wouldn’t have come into question.
And George can’t be let off the hook for his part in this fiasco. The All-Star forward has done more to spur rumors that he will play for the L.A. than the Lakers have by telling the Pacers that’s who he wanted to play for.
So with no tangible evidence of tampering but simply knowledge of conversations between the Lakers GM and George’s agent, L.A.’s record fine was dished out to serve Indiana and appease other small market teams. The NBA wants to make it clear that the Lakers get no special treatment to nip any pending conspiracy rumors in the bud.
Even though L.A. didn’t touch, they got caught looking and that was enough for them to get all the blame.