Will Lakers Be Punished for Tampering with Paul George?

Paul George (joshuak8 (Flickr) [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0])

As reported, the Indiana Pacers have filed a complaint against the Los Angeles Lakers, accusing the team of communicating with Paul George and making plans for the four-time All Star to join the Lakers when his contract is up in 2018. That would violate NBA rules, which prohibit enticing players currently under contract.

Most of the time, tampering complaints are fairly minor and dealt with quickly. The Atlanta Hawks were fined when they sent an email to their season-ticket holders in 2013 claiming that they would be going after Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in free agency. In the same year, Sacramento coach Mike Malone was also fined when he said that Paul would play well with the Kings.

The actual filing of tampering complaints is rare. Some that say that tampering is rampant and that the only thing separating this case from any other is that the Pacers are (understandably) frustrated about losing their star and are now looking to cause trouble for his presumed future employer.

This affair, however, is going to be a whole different thing. There’s going to be an investigation; phone and email records are going to be scoured through; and the league has hired an outside law firm.

If there’s any truth to the allegations, the Lakers will be hit with some form of penalty, which is to say: the Lakers will probably be hit with some form of penalty. The potential penalties for tampering include fines (of up to $6 million), suspension of team staff, and loss of draft picks. For minor infractions — which include almost any kind of communication, even this Magic Johnson wink — teams can be fined up to $250,000.

Of some consolation to Lakers fans: the Brooklyn Nets went through this whole ordeal in 2013 over Andrei Kirilenko, but were cleared because there wasn’t proof that some kind of side deal was organized. For the major infractions, it seems, the NBA wants to see proof of a side deal (money in a future contract to lessen salary cap troubles, for example) which doesn’t seem likely in this scenario.

To dole out any kind of punishment, the league will have to demonstrate some kind of a paper trail. It’s unlikely that Magic Johnson is careless enough to leave such a paper trail — emailing George from his @la-lakers.com is a little much to expect — but we’ve seen dumber stuff come out of probes into phone and email records, and as the odds below show, our money is on the investigation finding some sort of proof in the Laker pudding. It seems likely that George had at least some improper contact with Lakers management before his somewhat bizarre announcement of his decision to play there in 2018. Whether that includes the kind of side deal for which the NBA pulls out the big penalties, however, is less likely.

While the big Vegas sportsbooks aren’t taking bets on the props, below, sites like Mybookie have entire sections devoted to NBA futures and specials to keep you entertained in the offseason.

Lakers/Paul George Tampering Investigation: The Odds

Odds the Lakers ….

  • are not punished in any way: 13/7
  • are punished with up to $250,000 in fines: 3/2
  • are punished with $3 million to $6 million in fines: 6/1
  • are punished by losing at least one draft pick: 8/1

Odds Paul George signs with the Lakers in 2018: 3/7

Odds LeBron James does, too: 3/1