The NBA fined the Lakers $500,000 for tampering involving forward Paul George, alleging 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.”
The league added the penalty stemmed from its previous warning to the Lakers after president of basketball operations Magic Johnson admitted interest in George during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on April 20.
Despite the punishment, the NBA said the investigation “did not reveal evidence of an agreement or understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire George.” Had that happened, the Lakers could have suffered more severe penalties, including the loss of draft picks and the inability to acquire George when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the 2018 offseason.
George’s representatives had informed the Indiana Pacers this summer of the Palmdale native’s plans to join the Lakers in the 2018 offseason after opting out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. Shortly after, the Pacers traded the four-time All-Star to the Oklahoma City Thunder for guard Victor Oladipo and young center Domantas Sabonis.
Since then, the Lakers have held out hope they can accelerate the growth in their young roster well enough to entice stars such as George, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook to join the Lakers next season.
Meanwhile, the Lakers also prioritized maximizing cap space, both by trading center Timofey Mozgov (three years, $48 million) to Brooklyn and by signing free agent guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tyler Ennis to one-year deals. Still, George has a full season in Oklahoma City with Westbrook, a pairing that could provide some relative threat to the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Though the Lakers’ interest in George is well known, the NBA prohibits teams from publicly expressing interest in a player already under contract as well as…