The Los Angeles Lakers have been fined $500,000 for violating the NBA's rules against tampering after an investigation revealed they had impermissible contact with Paul George's agent, the league announced Thursday.
The investigation found Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka expressed interest in acquiring George while he was under contract with another team. According to the NBA's statement, the league had already warned the Lakers after team president Magic Johnson made impermissible comments about George on Jimmy Kimmel Live in April.
“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 Indiana Pacers requested the NBA look into potential tampering by the Lakers earlier this month. George requested a trade from Indiana in June, with the Lakers reportedly being his preferred destination. The Pacers instead traded George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo.
George told Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated that his interest in the Lakers was "overstated."
"I grew up a Lakers and a Clippers fan. I idolized Kobe [Bryant]," George said. "There will always be a tie here, a connection here. People saying I want to come here, who doesn't want to play for their hometown? That's a dream come true, if you're a kid growing up on the outskirts of L.A., to be the man in your city. But it's definitely been overstated. For me, it's all about winning.
"I want to be in a good system, a good team. I want a shot to win it. I'm not a stats guy. I'm playing this game to win and build a legacy of winning. I've yet to do that. I'm searching for it. If we get a killer season in Oklahoma, we make the conference finals or upset the Warriors or do something crazy, I'd be dumb to want to leave that."
George will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. The NBA could have prevented him from signing with the Lakers, had its investigators found an improper agreement between the two sides. However, if George winds up a Laker next summer, odds are Johnson and Co. will be fine with the $500,000 hit as a cost of doing business.