When the NBA announced the Los Angeles Lakers would be penalized with a $500,000 fine for tampering with Paul George, it somehow seemed like a lot and a little punishment, all at the same time. It wasn’t a loss of a draft pick, for example, which would have had a much more apparent on-court result. But it also wasn’t nothing, especially if you’re the one on the hook for forking over half a million.
Unless, of course, you’re Magic Johnson, who announced his intention to pay the fine personally.
In the wake of the Lakers being slapped with a $500,000 fine for tampering with Paul George when he was still a member of the Pacers, Johnson doesn’t want friend and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss to bear the financial obligation, according to a report from the LA Times.
“We can’t say a lot but we will correct the situation,” Johnson said Monday, according to the report. “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.”
Johnson continued further, offering plenty of apologies to go around, with one notable exception:
“We’re going to have meetings about it next week. … I’m gonna always care about the Laker brand, the Laker fans, so I apologize to them as well,” he said. “The main thing is we’re going to move forward. We got 95 percent everything’s going great. This is the one thing that went bad. … This is something we can correct. Adam is a great friend of mine. I’m glad he was able to do his job. Now I’m gonna do my job.”
There’s one party to whom Johnson didn’t explicitly apologize: the Indiana Pacers, who initially requested the investigation when they (rightfully, it turns out) believed the Lakers had tampered with their player, which set off a chain reaction that eventually led to George’s trade to the Thunder for a widely-panned return. If Johnson is taking the approach that he had nothing to do with the tampering, but it did happen on his watch, shouldn’t he also be apologizing to the team they actually wronged?
Or, hey, just pay $500,000 to make it all go away, sign Paul George next offseason anyway, and call it even. Which is the joke of it all; every team in the NBA would forfeit $500,000 for an inside track at a top-tier free agent. It’s not bad management, per se. It’s just unfortunate for small and mid-market teams. It also demonstrates how toothless the fine is; the organization itself isn’t going to be hurt by this. It’s not going to effect their operating budget in the slightest. It’s almost a way for Magic Johnson to use his personal wealth in ways that further bully other teams.
But sure, stand-up move.