There are a couple of things that really bothered me about that $500,000 fine the Lakers got for tampering with Paul George, who was then under contract to the Indiana Pacers.
First, it was not enough of a penalty for a team that was previously warned about tampering with George. By now, you've probably seen this clip from the Jimmy Kimmel Show that features Laker President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson joking about tampering with George. After that show aired, the league specifically sent a warning to the Lakers.
But the Lakers later defied that order when General Manager Rob Pelinka spoke to George's agent. To me, that takes the tampering to an entirely different level. I was shocked the league didn't either take a draft choice away from Los Angeles or, better yet, bar them from signing George a year from now when he becomes a free agent.
The Lakers were caught with their hand in the cookie jar and instead of pulling the hand away, they just dug deeper. That tells you something about the respect that franchise has for the league office.
Does $500,000 sound severe to you? Well, certainly not as tough as when the league took $3.5 million and five draft picks away from Minnesota for an illegal agreement with Joe Smith. That deal also led to front-office suspensions and the Timberwolves being prohibited from signing Smith. On the surface, making an illegal deal seems much worse than whet the Lakers did but really, making illegal contact with the agent of a player a year away from free agency is very serious, too. Particularly when you've been warned not to do it.
I think back to the Trail Blazers being fined $250,000 in 1984 for illegal contact with Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon. It was a huge sum at the time and all the Trail Blazers did was agree to explain the salary cap to the players prior to the draft. At that time, a quarter of a million was a whole lot of money. And at a time when the league wasn't nearly as prosperous as the NBA is now.
Of course, those fines were levied by then-commissioner David Stern. I believe the current administration led by Adam Silver is much softer -- on players and ownership. It's a go-along, get-along kind of league now. Everything is cool. Silver just keeps smiling.
Fining the Lakers a half million in today's NBA is a joke. The Lakers -- a company worth billions -- probably spend that much on post-game spreads in the family room. Sure, there is all sorts of tampering going on now -- but what a perfect time to make an example of a team breaking the rules. Certainly a $500,000 fine isn't going to deter a team from illegal contact.
I mean, why bother with those tampering rules if you aren't going to enforce them?
And does anybody think the Pacers would have gotten the same treatment had they tampered with a Laker player? I don't think so. It's no secret the NBA wants the Lakers strong again and wasn't anxious to do anything that would impede their growth.
It's too bad.