Los Angeles Lakers: Paul George tampering probe hurts

Recent reports have surfaced that Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon has filed charges against the Los Angeles Lakers for tampering with Paul George. The NBA has hired an independent law firm, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, to probe the matter.

The allegations refer to George's time with the Pacers prior to his trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder in June. Tampering is a very serious offense in sports; however, it is notoriously hard to prove. While the Pacers may believe they have a case against the Lakers, it may be a case of wishful thinking on their part. But if Los Angeles are found guilty of tampering, what could this mean for all involved?

The focus of the tampering claims

The Pacers' reasoning for filing tampering charges against the Lakers currently remains unclear, as tampering often occurs behind closed doors. However, one very public incident looks to be the foundation for Indiana's tampering claims.

The investigation appears to be centered around Lakers president Magic Johnson's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, which aired April 21, 2017. Kimmel asked Johnson about whether Johnson could talk to George if they met while on vacation. Kimmel was questioning whether Johnson could talk to George while complying with the NBA's anti-tampering rule. Johnson replied to Kimmel by saying, "We're going to say 'hi' because we know each other."

Johnson's reply perfectly complied with the NBA's anti-tampering rule. Unfortunately, what Johnson said and did next seems to have triggered these allegations. Johnson added, “You just can't say, 'Hey, I want you, come to the Lakers' even though I'm going to be wink-winking.” Johnson followed this by winking. He then joked: “You know what that means, right?”

Johnson is an experienced sports executive, and this would all have been done in jest. However, tampering does not take intent into account. Rather, it includes anything that the NBA deems appropriate to conclude as tampering.

What could the Lakers' punishment be?

Should the Lakers be found guilty of tampering, they will be subjected to a wide range of punishments. Potential tampering punishments include:

  1. A warning
  2. A maximum fine of $5 million
  3. A suspension of Johnson for a definite or indefinite period
  4. Forfeiture of draft picks
  5. Transfer of draft picks to the Pacers
  6. Prohibition from signing George for a definite or indefinite period

Obviously, the punishments vary in severity. However, the Lakers will certainly be hoping that these allegations go unproven. Apart from a warning, which is an unlikely punishment in such a high profile case, all of these penalties have the ability to alter the future of the franchise.

With the Lakers having recently entered an era which promises future prosperity, it would be a huge blow to be found guilty of tampering and suffer a potentially major setback. In the meantime, we will have to wait and see what the results of this probe are.

Are the Lakers guilty? If so, what do you think their punishment should be? Comment below!

For more articles like this, take a look at our NBA 2K page.