There’s nothing like a good tampering investigation, mostly because no side ends up looking great. The team that may or may not have tampered with a player (the Lakers, in this case) obviously looks bad for having done that. The team that requests the investigation (the Pacers) looks incredibly petty, as with tampering there’s a sense of “everyone does it, why bother?” It’s kind of like getting mad at an ex.
In this case, neither team ended up with the player in question; Paul George is a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder for at least this season. But it remains quite likely that he ends up in Los Angeles as a free agent next summer, and the Pacers apparently think that something untoward happened during the process that led to Indiana trading George after the draft.
Woj and Ramona Shelbourne offered more details for ESPN:
If the league office’s probe can prove 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, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.
If the NBA were to find evidence that the Lakers had engaged in a side agreement with George, he could be prohibited from signing a free-agent deal with Los Angeles or being part of a trade to the Lakers.
Nevertheless, it is unclear if any evidence exists that could incriminate the Lakers or Johnson. The NBA is using the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to probe the matter, the NBA said.
It’s easy to see why the Pacers would force the issue here; they have nothing to lose, really, having already lost their star asset, and based on the smoke that was out there at the time, it’s hard to imagine that no one with Paul George’s camp had contact with someone representing the Lakers. The key, though, is that most of these things tend to happen over backchannels; the likelihood of any actual evidence being found is slim.
But, then again, these are the Lakers under Magic Johnson, the man who tweeted this when the original Paul George story broke:
God is so good!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 18, 2017
So…yeah, it’s possible he hasn’t exactly been overly careful. (Hell, that tweet alone is borderline tampering.) Still, the odds of this leading to anything of substance, much less a barring of George signing with Los Angeles (which would seem to hurt George as much or more than the Lakers) is slim.