Lakers Tampering Allegations: 4 Points to Consider

August 23, 2017

The recent report that the Lakers were being investigated by the NBA for allegedly "tampering" with Paul George while he was still a member of the Indiana Pacers created some mild shockwaves throughout the league. Most of the focus seems to center around the activities of Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson.

Let's set aside for a moment the reality that indirect lobbying on behalf of teams (through players or other methods) takes place all the time. Here are four points to consider while evaluating whether any major scandal is brewing.

1. Pacers allegations, not NBA findings, started the investigation

A statement by the NBA makes it clear that the investigation was opened "at the request of the Indiana Pacers." Put another way, it means the NBA itself had not, as of the commencement of the investigation, seen anything that justified opening such an investigation on their own.

That would include the highly overblown "wink" comments made by Magic Johnson on Jimmy Kimmel Live back in April. So don't accept any theories that Magic's interview was somehow "damning evidence" or any such nonsense. The NBA didn't seem to care much at the time.

Sadly, some fans and even media seem to falsely believe the investigation itself is proof that something suspicious between the Lakers and Paul George has been sniffed out by the NBA. This is despite the fact that the initial statement by the NBA itself appears to take pains to reject the validity of such speculation. "The Lakers have been cooperative and, at this point, no findings have been made."

2. The reporter who broke the story hates Magic Johnson

While Peter Vescey's initial reporting of the basic facts of the story are a valid scoop, any subsequent comments, speculations, or unsourced insinuations about Lakers guilt that one might read or hear about from Vescey should be taken with a grain of salt. The man has been ripping Magic Johnson for years with what appears to be a deep personal dislike.

In other words, Vescey comes across as someone very invested in the idea that Magic Johnson should be punished and it is possible a reader or listener might jump to false conclusions simply because they might think the guy who "broke the story" has other secret information he isn't revealing. If Vescey had any such evidence he would definitely officially report it just to take Magic down.

3. Magic only began working for the Lakers in February 2017

Getting the timeline correct about Magic Johnson's role with the Lakers is important in considering these tampering charges as well. Basically, the Pacers have alleged that the Lakers, quite possibly Magic personally, communicated with Paul George about coming to the Lakers. But even if Magic did lobby George to come to the Lakers, it matters when he did. Because many have speculated for at least over a year that Paul George has wanted to play for his hometown team.

Remember, Magic Johnson only became an adviser for Jeannie Buss on February 2, 2017. He became President of Basketball Operations a few weeks later. If he was lobbying George to come to the Lakers before he was working for the team, the NBA could not possibly justify calling that tampering.

(*Those who suggest that Magic's title as "honorary vice president" through June 2016 meant he was working in an official capacity have little leg to stand on either. Throughout that time Magic was openly lobbying for and speculating about signing other star players over Twitter and the NBA didn't seem to care at all. Wouldn't they have said something or punished the Lakers in a significant way if they felt he was acting on behalf of the team?)

4. Pacers have been acting weird lately

The Pacers front office has been in chaos this year.  First, Larry Bird stepped down in March as President of Basketball Operations. Then, after years of warnings from Paul George that a roster upgrade was necessary for him to want to stay in Indiana, he told the team he would not re-sign with them next year. Further, he told them he would likely sign with the Lakers.

Seemingly in a vindictive and petulant rage, the Pacers then cut off their own nose to spite their face. Given several decent trade offers from the Lakers, Celtics, and other teams, the Pacers made a horrible deal with the OKC Thunder, almost as if they were more focused on denying giving George what he wanted rather than thinking about the team's own interests.

Now, rather than moving on and starting the rebuild with new pieces, the Pacers still seem intent on fighting over the George situation, like a jilted boyfriend obsessing over the one that got away. This isn't a good look for them at all.

The NBA investigation will likely get to the bottom of things in the end (unless the NBA decides to screw the Lakers...again). But if the Pacers had been more level-headed and professional before this then one might be more inclined to view their allegations with greater seriousness, assuming them to be based on real facts and evidence uncovered. As it stands, it seems far more likely they are still just angry and fishing for anything to punish George and the Lakers.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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