The Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday were fined $500,000 for violating the NBA’s anti-tampering rule after general manager Rob Pelinka was found to have had contact with Paul George’s agent after the team had already been warned.
The league said Pelinka’s contact with George’s agent “constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract” with the Indiana Pacers.
Front-office execs tend to end up in hot water if they talk publicly about players on other teams. But when players do it, the NBA looks the other way — which has helped grease the wheels to some of the biggest star teamings of the decade.
The fine followed an investigation, conducted by an independent law firm, after the Pacers filed tampering charges.
According to the league, the anti-tampering rule prohibits teams from interfering with other teams’ contractual relationships with NBA players, including by publicly expressing interest in a player who is currently under contract with another team, or by informing that player’s agent of your franchise’s interest.
The league said the punishment stems from Pelinka’s contact with George’s agent after the NBA had already warned the team about tampering following Lakers president Magic Johnson’s nationally televised comments about George on April 20.
“We respect and accept the NBA’s decision regarding this matter,” Pelinka said in a statement. “On behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers, I want to express our regret over this unfortunate incident to both our fans and the NBA.”
The Lakers’ outside counsel, Adam Streisand, also said in the statement, “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.”
George informed the Pacers in June that he planned to opt out of his contract in 2018 and intended to sign a free-agent deal with the Lakers. He was then traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in a deal that was finalized on July 6.
The possible penalties for the Lakers included a loss of draft picks, fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.
The investigation — conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz — did not reveal that an agreement was reached by both parties for George to join the Lakers.
George averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 2016-17. George, a four-time All-Star, was part of the 2016 USA Olympic gold-medal team less than two years after suffering a broken leg.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.