According to sources close to the situation, Johnson called an associate of LaVar’s and strongly admonished him. Publicly, though, the Lakers said nothing. “Look, we had lost nine in a row and you didn’t hear nothing from me, right? I was supporting Luke through all nine in a row,” Johnson says. “So now, LaVar comes out and says something, and everybody asks, ‘Why didn’t you say nothing?’
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But it was hard to hold their tongues. According to team sources, the Lakers were angry and disappointed with LaVar Ball over those comments. They felt as though no other franchise would be as accommodating and supportive as they had been, only to be rewarded with a constant disrespect and drama. Or, as one official put it, “He reaches out with one hand and slaps us with the other.” Mostly, though, the Lakers were concerned about the effect on Lonzo, who was essentially being asked to choose between his father and his coach. Lonzo tried to split the defense when asked whether he agreed with his dad’s assertion that Walton had lost the team, saying he’d “play for anybody.”
But they knew where they wanted to draw the line. The Lakers wouldn’t allow the Balls’ Facebook Watch show, “Ball in the Family,” to film games for free, as other NBA teams have. According to sources, AEG (a minority owner of the Lakers, which owns and operates Staples Center) charged the production company that produces the show when they filmed at games. And when Lonzo Ball wanted to buy 20 premier-level tickets to every Lakers home game for his extended family, a source said he was charged $150,000, the same amount as any other customer for those seats.
Bill Oram: I’m told this will be the Lakers only major deal, although there always could be something minor on the back end (like Huertas/Ennis swap last year)
Kevin Arnovitz: Soon-Shiong owns a minority share in the Lakers.
Jeff Zillgitt: Lakers fined again for tampering – $50K this time for comments Magic Johnson made about Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Randle will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Clarkson is owed $25.9 million over the next two seasons. The Lakers have listened to offers or explored trades for both players that included first or second round picks, but sources indicate that none of those deals would save significant cap space for the future, thereby negating the initial reason for exploring trades for those players.
While the Lakers could still move either or both players before Thursday’s trade deadline, one league source put the chances of a meaningful trade at “50-50 at best.” If the Lakers were to move Clarkson or Randle either now or at the draft, and find a resolution to the $36.8 million remaining on Luol Deng’s albatross contract — likely via the waive-and-stretch provision — the Lakers could create $60 million in salary cap space in July of 2019. Nevertheless, if the Lakers sit out free agency this summer, they’ll try to use their salary cap space to accommodate teams looking to dump bad contracts — and willing to send draft picks to sweeten the deal, sources said.
“Of course the media stories are going to focus on the biggest free-agent names,” Pelinka said. “But that’s not the only road. We could use the cap space on superstars. We could use it for one star and some of our own players. Or we could just use it on our own free agents: Julius [Randle], Brook, and KCP [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] are all free agents, and I think we’re evaluating all of those things.
The most pleasant surprise about his new job as Lakers general manager, though, is being linked with the other hundred-plus employees in the Lakers’ new headquarters. “I love the continuity and team building and all working together for a common purpose,” Pelinka said. “When you’re an agent, you’re really focused on an individual’s brand. It’s a very supporting endeavor. This has that team feel, collaborating with all the folks around here. That part I love.”
For taking on Mozgov’s contract, Marks got the considerable upside of Russell’s potential, and Pelinka saw it as a nice byproduct that the Lakers were setting Russell up in a good situation. “The overwhelming driving force behind any trade is 100 percent what’s best for the Lakers,” Pelinka said. “But we’re all human. There is a human element through every decision that’s made in life.
According to this, from ESPN’s Dan Le Batard, that would not necessarily seem to be the case. “I have been told by multiple sources that Magic Johnson is doing that job the way that I thought Magic Johnson was going to do that job. Sort of whisking in and out of the office. ‘Yeah fire everyone. Trade everyone. You’re doing a bad job. I’m going to run my movie empire.’ Is he still doing that? The details, the specifics of the doing of that job. Magic Johnson has been given all of the power and isn’t doing any of the work that usually gets done. He’s doing the job the way Phil Jackson did the job. He’s pretty mad at (Rob) Pelinka from what I’ve heard.”
Happily, at long last for the Lakers, they’re warming up, if not red hot. It may be because Magic, still a charismatic figure, is in charge, or that Kupchak did a good job before being fired so that they finally have the right young players, even if none of them is Joel Embiid or Karl-Anthony Towns. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma are showing signs of being special, as has Lonzo Ball in an earlier stage of development. Julius Randle, thought to be outward bound for cap room, has clawed his way up the pecking order. A year ago if you asked how many of their players had shown they were special as opposed to merely promising, the answer would have been none. Magic still dreams like a Laker, targeting the top free agents: Bron, Paul George and, at least until last week’s injury, DeMarcus Cousins.
To hear Pelinka tell it, how the Lakers go about building around Lonzo won’t be dictated by LaVar. “I think that as a general rule with the Lakers organization, the opinions of any family member of any of our players—whether it’s dad, mom, uncle, sister, brother—just aren’t factored into the decisions we make in the front office,” he insisted.
Mike Bresnahan: Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said team management supported second-year coach Luke Walton. “Luke’s done a tremendous job. We fully support him — Magic, myself, Jeanie,” Pelinka said.
Mike Bresnahan: Rob Pelinka added that the Lakers front office fully agrees on the need to keep ascending the Larry O’Brien “trophy mountain.” “Until we get to the top of it, we won’t be satisfied,” he said.
James Worthy sees some Magic Johnson-like traits in Lonzo Ball and believes his old Showtime point guard will be able to “deliver” some star reinforcements in free agency this summer. Before the season started, Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers’ president of basketball operations, said he can envision Ball and Brandon Ingram running the floor like Johnson and Worthy did during their Showtime days. Johnson set an extremely high bar for the past two No. 2 overall picks respectively. “Big shoes to fill,” said Worthy, currently a Lakers analyst for Spectrum SportsNet. “But I think I totally get conceptually where Magic was coming from and the style of play that Luke [Walton] is promoting, the fast-paced game. Lonzo Ball, for sure, presents some of the talents that Magic had. Not as tall, but he is 6-6 and has the IQ, has a vision like no other. “As soon as players get used to the way he passes and they get some really good shooters around him, I think people will really appreciate him. And they already have appreciated what he brings to the table, a very unselfish player.”
Magic Johnson’s biggest task will be to give Lonzo Ball — who is averaging 12 points, 10.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 3.3 steals in his past three games — superstars to pass to. The Lakers will try to add two stars this summer when LeBron James is expected to headline the free agency class, and Worthy thinks his old point guard will not come up empty-handed. “You look at what Magic Johnson has been able to do throughout his basketball career, [and] in his post-basketball career, he’s been able to manifest pretty good deals,” the former Lakers great said. “When Magic is in the room, that is a major asset trying to recruit. “With Kobe [Bryant] gone and the young core players that we have, and I think players understand and see what Lonzo Ball brings to the table as a point guard, I really think we are in a good place and I think [Johnson] will be able to deliver next year.”
Yet despite LaVar’s assertion to ESPN that the Lakers (13-27) were “not playing for Luke no more,” or that he’s “not connecting with one player,” a person with direct knowledge of the Lakers’ thinking told USA TODAY Sports that Walton’s job is not in danger and that the organization still has complete faith in the coach who is in the second season of a five-year, $25 million deal. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
“It’s just a lot of white noise, in a sense,” added Kuzma, who scored 14 points in a 132-113 home win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday to snap a nine-game losing slide. “Luke is my guy. I love playing for him. I’m sure most of us love playing for him too. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.”
Tania Ganguli: One thing to remember in the LaVar Ball discussion is that his statements do matter to the organization. That’s not my opinion, it’s theirs. Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson would not have met with him in November if his comments didn’t matter.
Luke Walton: “As I preach to my players that control what you can control in life, that has to be my philosophy as a coach as well… [Team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka] have been great, they have been supportive. They obviously understand where we are at as a team and what we are trying to do and what the big picture is…”
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George said Wednesday that the Indiana Pacers suspected his relationship with Los Angeles Lakers associate head coach Brian Shaw constituted tampering over the summer, but the league investigation found no evidence of tampering by Shaw, multiple sources told ESPN. “They thought it was tampering,” George said after the Thunder shootaround before their game in Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). “There was no tampering at all. It was kinda crazy. Our relationship, myself and B-Shaw, was far more stronger than the teams, me coming to the Lakers was. B-Shaw has been a mentor for me, so it was kind of comical.
“The Pacers thought there was more depth, of him trying to recruit me. It wasn’t. The only thing me and B-Shaw ever spoke about was fishing. We challenge each other on fishing trips. B-Shaw has way, way better class than trying to recruit me.”
Before the draft, in front of all the NBA’s GMs and top scouts, Kuzma helped himself at the league combine when he made four of five three-pointers in a game. But some scouts considered that an aberration. Not Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ new president, or Rob Pelinka, their first-time GM, as they went into their first draft and needed to hit in big since taking over the basketball operations three months earlier. In a rebuilding campaign, they took Ball at No. 2 overall, believing that even with his funky shot and problems defending quicker point guards, he’d be the floor leader they needed, a player other players wanted to play with, and the kind of rare talent who could make his teammates better.
But Pelinka, who represented Kobe for 18 of his 20 years in the NBA and also had former Lakers Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza as clients, was also someone she knew and trusted. What’s more, the fact he didn’t work for an NBA team meant Jeanie could recruit him without seeking the kind of formal permission that would have tipped off Jim Buss and Kupchak to her plan. “We were having lunch one day, just casually – and she (says), ‘Well, Magic is amazing at casting the vision, and big picture stuff, but I need a cap expert; I need someone who understands the business of the NBA, someone who can implement his vision,’ and she was like, ‘Someone like you, Rob,’” Pelinka remembered. “From there, it was just like a light bulb went on for everybody and it just unfolded.”
The Lakers can’t hope to stop LaVar. They can’t even contain him if they keep being so nice, as opposed to having someone – Magic Johnson is the one he might listen to – tell him to shut up already. From Jeanie Buss on down, the Lakers are gritting their teeth, increasingly unable to endure LaVar’s ceaseless jibes: Claiming they don’t know how to coach Lonzo; calling Luke Walton “soft” for “babying” him; belittling the organization’s commitment (“The Lakers should build around Lonzo. Why are they sitting him down and not starting him in the fourth quarter? This is why the record is raggedy”); zinging teammates such as Julius Randle for missing Lonzo on a fast break in the loss to the Warriors since he “had a wide-open layup or a 3-pointer!”
Get ready for more: Whatever happens in Lakerdom for the next 10 years or so will be punctuated by LaVar’s self-serving comments about opponents’ unworthiness or Laker clumsiness. With the Lakers’ investment in Lonzo, he’s akin to family, making it painful for them to think about confronting LaVar. That’s the danger. The Lakers will always be conflicted, hoping for the best. LaVar, who’s all about LaVar, will never be.
LaVar Ball said his oldest son, Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, is “disgusted” with how the team has been playing. And the outspoken father blamed the Lakers’ recent struggles on how the coaching staff has been utilizing his son. The Knicks announced he would be reevaluated after two weeks, didn’t give a concrete timetable and ominously announced he would start “a treatment and rehabilitation plan.” That language doesn’t sound like a two-week injury. A stress injury, according to medical experts, means Hardaway either has a stress reaction or, more severely, a stress fracture to either his fibula or tibia. A leading expert on basketball leg injuries, Dr. William Hsu of Northwestern, told The Post a stress reaction to those inflamed bones can put a player out two to six weeks. A stress fracture is more of a two-month process but surgery is not required.
LaVar Ball hasn’t been shy to share his inflammatory opinions about the Los Angeles Lakers, from Luke Walton’s “soft” coaching to Julius Randle’s poor recognition of Lonzo Ball during the team’s recent loss to the Golden State Warriors. But according to Lakers legend A.C. Green, the Big Baller Brand CEO’s proclamations aren’t a problem for Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the Purple and Gold. “There’s no issue. There’s no matter,” Green told TMZ Sports. “Earvin knows what he’s doing.” Rather than advise Ball to step back from the spotlight, Green said simple that “LaVar’s gonna do what he does” and that “The team is gonna keep playing.” “Earvin knows what he’s doing. Rob knows what he’s doing,” he added. “So I don’t see any issues there. I don’t think he has any affiliation with the Lakers, so he’s not involved with the Lakers,” he explained. “But he has an opinion, and you guys keep giving him an opportunity to share his opinion, and you should.”
The Laker rebulding program dates to 2014 when they got Randle at No. 7, followed by three No. 2s, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball… leaving them far behind Minnesota which got Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and Philadelphia with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. No, the problem wasn’t Jim Buss, a figurehead… It wasn’t GM Mitch Kupchak, who was mostly, if not always, on the money with picks like Randle, Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance. The first rule is: Get lucky. The Lakers did, drawing those three No. 2s… just not enough to have a transcendent player there for them, as Towns was for the T-Wolves at No. 1 in 2015, or Embiid was for the Sixers at No. 3 in 2014 after hurting his foot before the draft.
The second rule, and the only one you have control over, is: Make the most of opportunities. The Lakers had one big miss in 2015 when they took Russell at No. 2, even if it was a mistake other teams were lined up to make. The No. 3 76ers wanted Russell but took Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. That dropped Kristaps Porzingis–the prize, in retrospect–to the Knicks at No. 4.
The Lakers recently picked up your team option for the 2018-19 season. How have you seen the organization improve since you’ve been here? Larry Nance, Jr.: My first year was Kobe [Bryant]’s last, so that was a blast. Regardless of our record, getting to spend a full year with him and go along for that ride was an incredible experience. Then last year, we saw a change in coaching staff, so that came with its own different challenges and lost a couple more teammates. Since Magic [Johnson] and Rob [Pelinka] have taken over, the culture is changing. We’re shifting into a win-first mindset and if you’re not part of that mindset, then you’re out. I think we’re really heading towards and getting there quickly to a winning culture.
The Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) last summer to contracts that have become significant impediments to Los Angeles’ ability to upgrade its roster. The Lakers had to include D’Angelo Russell to dump Mozgov, and now they’re trying to unload Deng – which will also surely require massive sweeteners. What were they thinking?
“The thing we talk about is our mentality,” Pelinka said last week. “The way that Magic and Kobe brought it every night, those guys guide us in terms of the mentality, the way we want to play in every game — compete hard and play the right way. That’s probably the word that’s guiding us right now.” After barely hanging on to beat the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Sunday night — the Lakers blew a 22-point third-quarter lead — L.A. is .500. In the big picture, no great shakes, to be sure. But for a team that’s won 27, 21, 17 and 26 games the last four seasons, 5-5 is significant progress.
Bryant, who gave an informal backstage pep talk to the fighters, can’t stick around for the card. He said he was in a rush to get home to his three daughters, the oldest of which, Gianna, has flashed some of the same basketball skills as her dad. Bryant has said he has no interest in a Lakers’ front office role and is content to keep his scouting reports within the family. “I coach my daughter’s sixth grade team. That’s the extent of it all,” Bryant said. “She’s a beast. She’s tough. She’s a little firecracker, man.”
Jordan Clarkson fully expects a highly charged D’Angelo Russell to come into the Staples Center trying to prove that the Los Angeles Lakers and Magic Johnson were wrong for trading him. “Oh, he’s going to be fired up,” the Lakers guard said of his former teammate. “S—, he’ll try to go for 30? 40? I don’t know how many shots he’s gonna put up. He’s gonna come in here, he’s gonna try to get a win for sure. He’s definitely going to put them up.”
Serena Winters: Magic: “We can’t play half court basketball, because our team is not built for that, it’s built for running.” (on @SpectrumSN).
The Los Angeles Lakers plan to hire two-time NBA All-Star Antawn Jamison in a scouting role, league sources told The Vertical. Jamison, 41, will work in the scouting department under Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager Rob Pelinka and assistant general manager Jesse Buss, league sources said.
Ultimately that cost Buss and Kupchak their jobs and in an appearance on The Woj Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Kupchak admitted that they may have placed some unrealistic expectations on their rebuild: “I think as a group, the two of us, Jimmy and myself, we imposed maybe some unrealistic guidelines as to when the team can be competitive and how quickly we can do it. I think in today’s world it takes more time under the existing collective bargaining agreement with 30 very, very competitive teams and 30 competitive teams and I felt we were on our way with young talented players.”
Ryan Ward: Lonzo on Magic’s message to him: “Be vocal.” #Lakers
Lakers Nation: Former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak discussed the possible reasons he was fired: “Why did it happen (us getting fired) when it did? I’m not sure. It was a week before the trade deadline. Maybe they just felt, and I haven’t spoken to anybody since, so I don’t know what their thought process was so I’m really clearly just speculating, maybe they just said ‘well, if we’re going to make a change at the end of the year, then why don’t we do it now so we can control how the trade deadline goes.’ That’s the only thing I can think of.”
As the Lonzo Ball era begins with the Los Angeles Lakers rookie saying he likely will be a target because of all the hype, team president Magic Johnson said he isn’t concerned about anything that Ball’s father, LaVar, does or all the attention surrounding the Balls off the court unless it affects the rookie’s game.
“No, I am not going to monitor LaVar,” Johnson said when asked whether he has to have a regular dialogue with the elder Ball given his visibility and outspoken personality. “My job, I got 15 dudes I have to monitor and that’s it, and who I am going to monitor. LaVar is a grown man. He is a great father. I wish you guys could see him with his wife [Tina, who suffered a stroke in February]. This man, he brought her last week, helping her and getting her to be stronger and walk better. I saw the same thing at his home.
Serena Winters: Rob Pelinka said analytics showed Lakers had one of the lowest % in stopping other teams at the rim, and Andrew Bogut can come in & be a ‘paint protector.’
After parting ways with superstar teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant had a Lakers team to call his own, but he eventually grew frustrated with the lack of talent around him. In 2007, Bryant requested a trade from the only team that he had ever known, and for a time it looked as though the Lakers were going to appease him. That’s when owner Dr. Jerry Buss, legendary in his own right, sent a telegram that caused Bryant to change his mind and decide to stay in Los Angeles.
Rob Pelinka, Bryant’s former agent who is now the Lakers General Manager, relayed the story at an ESPNLA event. According to Pelinka, who still has the telegram, it read: “Kobe, as you make this decision, never bet against me winning championships.” According to Pelinka, Bryant read the note from Buss, who was out of town on vacation, and knew that he simply couldn’t leave the Lakers. Over the years Buss had proven that he could build championship-level teams, and if Bryant wanted to win, there was simply no better place to be.
Mike Trudell: Ingram on Magic’s praise over the summer: “It shouldn’t make you comfortable at all. It should make you work even harder.”
After his showing in Las Vegas, there are some expectations for the season and Magic Johnson appeared on ESPN’s First Take calling Kyle Kuzma the steal of the draft: “I’ll tell you, the steal of the draft is going to be Kyle Kuzma. The young man can shoot the basketball, he also can put it down on the floor and create for himself or for his teammates.”
Ryan Ward: Lakers GM Rob Pelinka: “Kobe’s impact on this franchise is immeasurable.”
Ryan Ward: Magic on Kobe: “Certain guys can change the game & Kobe Bryant was one of those guys to change the game forever.” via @espn #Lakers
Ryan Ward: Magic on Kobe Bryant: “He will always be remembered as a champion, a winner, but a guy that never took a night off.” via @espn #Lakers
Since the Lakers were hit with a $500,000 fine for tampering with Paul George, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson says, he has given the matter little thought except for one thing: He doesn’t want his close friend and boss, Jeanie Buss, to bear the burden of the fine.
“We can’t say a lot but we will correct the situation,” Johnson said Monday. “It’s under my watch. I apologize to Jeanie, and that was the main thing. I told her she could take it out of my salary because I don’t want the Lakers to be paying that fine. … I don’t want her spending $500,000, because she didn’t do anything. That’s on me.”
The league also said it had previously warned the Lakers after Johnson joked with Jimmy Kimmel on the late-night host’s talk show about what communication he is allowed to have with George if they would see each other in the offseason. “This is just on a late-night show being funny,” Johnson said after touring a donation facility he helped organize with West Angeles Church to benefit victims of Tropical Storm Harvey. “But now I know I can’t do that. We’re OK. I haven’t thought twice about it. We made a mistake. … It’s under my watch. I’m gonna make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.”
The league’s investigation found that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, had discussions in which George’s name came up and Pelinka offered a “prohibited expression of interest” to Mintz. The finding comes off a little like a state trooper pulling over a single car for speeding when the flow of traffic is all pushing 80, or the NCAA targeting a specific program for a probe while infractions run rampant among all its competitors in the conference in which it plays. That is to say, if there is a rule in place that can’t be universally enforced, those who do get caught for breaking it end up as almost sympathetic characters in a way.
Magic Johnson recently became the president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. Do you see Magic succeeding in his new role and would you do something like that in the future? Julius Erving: “I think Magic is going to succeed because he’s succeeded at every level and has taken on every challenge that’s put in front of him and channel it. “It’s not the role for me. It’s just not. I had my time in basketball and now I kind of like having the freedom that I have…that role is one that locks you in.”
Here is what Peter Vecsey, who was the first to report on the issue, said about potential punishments (via Patreon): “If deemed guilty, the Lakers’ franchise could be docked multiple draft picks (Timberwolves lost five first-rounders, got two back, but were shut out of draft in 2001, ’02 & ’04), their hierarchy could be suspended for a year or more (like T’Wolf owner Glen Taylor and GM Kevin McHale and a team lawyer for entering into a fraudulent series of contracts with Joe Smith) and fined millions (it cost Wolves $3.5M). The most severe punishment could be forbidding the Lakers to sign George when he’s free next summer.”
Tania Ganguli: Pacers triggered the Lakers tampering investigation, so I asked for their comment. From GM Pritchard: “We accept the league’s findings.”
Rob Pelinka: “We respect and accept the NBA’s decision regarding this matter. On behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers, I want to express our regret over this unfortunate incident to both our fans and the NBA.”
Sam Amick: This is 2nd largest tampering fine in league history (Minny/Joe Smith saga in 2000 was $3.5 mil & 3 picks). It’s in top 15 fines all time.
Ira Winderman: Lakers fined $500,000 by NBA for tampering issue with Paul George. But ruling does not preclude Los Angeles from eventually signing George.
Trudell: Let’s be honest, you guys had to be pretty happy with your selection while watching Kuzma rip up Las Vegas, with the qualifier that it’s “only Summer League.” When did he first get on your radar from a scouting perspective? Jeanie Buss: He’s been on our radar for a couple years now playing in the Pac-12 at Utah. We got to see them come play at USC and UCLA, as well as (outside of Los Angeles). I personally saw him when he was a freshman, but he didn’t play that much. I – and some of our scouts – saw him again when he started to play more as a sophomore and of course when he excelled as a junior.
Buss: We’ve had our eye on him because he’s multi-positional at the four and the three at that size (6’9’’). He has an ability to pass, shoot the ball, run the floor … good athlete, good understanding of the game. He was always intriguing to us. He just started to shoot the three this past year at Utah, and he didn’t shoot it that well at the beginning of the season. But as the season went on and in conference play he started to get more confidence with (the three).
Jeanie Buss: 💥Happy Birthday💥Kobe!! @Kobe Bryant #Lakers GOAT 🐐 #NBA 5x Champion, husband, father and my forever my friend. #TheBest
“Pelinka for sure knows how to tamper without getting caught,” one agent told me. “Pelinka will do whatever it takes to get players. Magic could easily have done something dumb and got caught for it, though.” The only difference between what teams usually do and this is that a complaint was filed, and the league must investigate. It’s possible that Magic slipped somewhere with an incriminating text or email. After all, he even went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and joked about tampering.
Tampering is hard, if not impossible to prove. “If there’s a paper trail, then it’ll be a thing,” said one league executive, adding he doubts there were any distinct emails or texts that implicate Magic. “No paper trail, no problem.”
The Lakers have been under investigation by the NBA for tampering allegations since May because of a conversation Magic Johnson had on a television show about then-Indiana All-Star forward Paul George that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing matter. The interview took place in April. Team officials aren’t allowed to make contact with a player or their representatives until the free-agency period opens on July 1.
The lawyers from the NBA and the outside counsel the Lakers hired to review the matter each deposed owner Jeanie Buss, Johnson, who is the president of basketball operations, and general manager Rob Pelinka in May, according to the officials.
According to several NBA officials, it would be difficult to prove that the Lakers have tampered with George. The officials also said the Lakers could be fined and have draft picks taken away if it is tampering allegations are proven.
The following statement was issued today by Alison Bogli, Director, Media Relations regarding the NBA’s investigation into the teams’ alleged tampering violation: “As the NBA’s statement made clear, we cannot comment about the specifics of any ongoing investigation. We can confirm, however, that we are cooperating fully with the NBA in the hope of clearing our name as soon as possible.”
The possibility of impermissible contact between Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and four-time All-Star Paul George is at the crux of an NBA probe into possible tampering, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.
The Indiana Pacers filed tampering charges with the NBA against the Lakers, and the league issued a statement Sunday saying that a probe is underway. The Lakers are denying the allegations filed by the Pacers, insisting that there is no evidence of tampering, and they expect to be cleared in the matter, a team source told ESPN.
If the league office’s probe can prove that the Lakers were guilty of tampering with George while under contract with Indiana, Los Angeles can be punished in several ways, including a loss of draft picks, financial fines up to $5 million or even future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.
Peter Vecsey: NBA investigating Lakers 4 purported tampering w PGeorge. Independent law firm handling interviews of Buss, Magic. patreon.com/petervecsey
Now Lakers president Jeanie Buss is getting into the mix. Buss appeared on the Petros and Money Show and AM 570 LA Radio and said that Kobe Bryant is the only other rookie to have as much excitement surrounding him as Ball: “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”
“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”
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February 24, 2018 | 10:01 pm EST Update
Jon Krawczynski: Jimmy Butler still has a 2nd opinion to get before any decisions are made on surgery and treatment. Will head out tomorrow morning to do that.