The Indiana Pacers were livid about what they saw as overt tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers with respect to Paul George and the NBA has confirmed there was enough evidence to fine the Lakers. However, a $500,000 fine for the Lakers is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. It would possible to make a case for the Lakers offering to pay that much for the opportunity to tamper with other players of interest in the future.
From the NBA press release,
The conduct at issue involved communications by Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka with the agent representing Paul George that constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract. The penalty reflected a previous warning issued by the NBA to the Lakers regarding tampering.
In a statement from the Lakers and their outside counsel, they admitted they tampered.
General Manager Rob Pelinka: “We respect and accept the NBA’s decision regarding this matter.”
Lawyer Adam Streisand of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP: “we can assure the fans that the Lakers will be hyper-vigilant going forward to make sure this is never an issue again.”
There will be complaints made that the Lakers weren’t doing anything that hasn’t happened in the past without the bad publicity and fine, but that doesn’t make what the Lakers organization was doing acceptable.
Small market teams like the Pacers find the playing field unfairly tilted enough already without the big market clubs trying to poach their players before free agency.
If anything the NBA should have come down harder on the Lakers, but at least they have sent a message. No team should be surprised if the same situation were to arise again that the punishment would be more severe.
The “wink-winking” and talking to agents about players under contract with other teams has to stop.