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.
One Western Conference executive reached for comment Thursday night told ESPN that the league was “at least trying to get serious” about tampering, but added that the proper penalty for what the Lakers did should be $1 million or the loss of a second-round pick at the least to serve as a “true deterrent” to keep other teams from doing the same. Another Eastern Conference GM suggested some sort of suspension system be put in place.
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.”
Alas, Gilbert’s tampering claims never amounted to anything. That’s standard for the NBA, where the league is virtually powerless to stop the most common form of tampering — player-to-player conversations — and it’s difficult to prove anything. “My sense is everyone agrees that the current situation is silly,” one league executive said. “The rules are archaic and both difficult to enforce, and largely unenforced even when they aren’t as difficult to enforce.”