NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended the league's decision to fine Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson after Johnson praised Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"Context is everything, and there had been a prior issue with the Lakers early this season," Silver said on ESPN's The Jump. "And the message is—not just to Magic but to all the executives in the league is—stop talking about players on other teams."
The NBA fined Johnson $50,000 after he told ESPN's Nick Friedell that Antetokounmpo will help take the Bucks to an NBA title.
The league also fined the Lakers organization $500,000 after an independent law firm determined general manager Rob Pelinka had contact with the agent for Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George, who was a member of the Indiana Pacers at the time.
The investigation also highlighted comments made by Johnson on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
The Hall of Famer said he had to go to "tampering school" to learn the ins and outs of what he can't say about players under contract with other teams. Johnson also joked how he wouldn't explicitly tell George to come to the Lakers if the two were to cross paths but added he'd "be wink-winking like" before giving an exaggerated winking gesture.
The exchange begins at the 2:46 mark of the clip below:
Johnson's comments regarding Antetokounmpo were more innocuous, but The Action Network's Matt Moore highlighted a problem created by a team hiring a legend such as Johnson in a front-office role:
Fans and writers will regularly solicit the opinions of past stars to analyze the current generation. That wouldn't be an issue in normal circumstances. Johnson is a different case given the role he serves for the Lakers.
"We'd love to hear players like Magic Johnson talk about how great young players are in the league," Silver said on ESPN of the situation. "But there's enough commentary out there. And I think, when on balance, just asking them to refrain from that one aspect of talking about other players, isn't that big a deal."
Johnson appears to have learned his lesson, with the Los Angeles Times' Tania Ganguli sharing his response when reporters asked he and Pelinka about the Boston Celtics' rebuilding plan:
Some growing pains were to be expected for Johnson since he had never been an NBA front-office executive prior to replacing Jim Buss a year ago.