IndyStar’s Gregg Doyel says the Indiana Pacers couldn’t take subtle hints about Paul George.
INDIANAPOLIS — After the news broke Sunday about Paul George’s looming departure from the Indiana Pacers, fans of the team began to voice frustration, depression and anger on social media.
George intends to leave the Pacers as a free agent after next season with the expressed preference of joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. In conjunction with previous comments by Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations, the news caused a large segment of those Pacers fans to wonder about tampering.
Did the Lakers entice George to leave the Pacers? What about Johnson’s public comments about George and the Lakers? Could the Lakers be fined or penalized by the NBA?
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That’s unlikely to happen, according to multiple league sources.
The Pacers, according to a source, are more concerned about finding a team or multiple teams to help facilitate a trade that would bring them the most compensation possible in exchange for George. Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers’ new president, engaged with several teams Monday about potential trades involving George, according to a source. Pritchard is hoping to have a trade agreement in place before Thursday’s draft.
As of Monday afternoon, the Pacers had not contacted the NBA about the possibility that the Lakers tampered with George, who has one year left on his contract with Indiana.
George, who is from Palmdale, Calif., had his agent, Aaron Mintz, inform Pritchard on Saturday that he wants his next destination to be a homecoming with the Lakers, a franchise that has won 16 championships. George at several points has mentioned his friendship with Johnson and his admiration for Kobe Bryant, the former Laker who won five titles in Los Angeles.
Johnson went to his Twitter account within an hour of an initial report about George’s intentions on Sunday by Yahoo’s “The Vertical.”
“God is so good!” Johnson wrote, which had fans, analysts and conspiracy theorists contemplating possible tampering.
More directly, Johnson had acknowledged in a late-night TV interview in April that he would love for George to be a Laker. He winked several times when answering a question about George and said that such a gesture would be understood after he said hello to George if the two see one another this summer in Los Angeles. After next season, George could sign a four-year deal with the Lakers worth as much as $130 million.
Johnson also said in the interview that he had to learn the NBA’s rules, as a new executive, when it came to discussing players not on the Lakers roster.
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“I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school,” Johnson said, laughing. “You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”
The NBA has handed down punishments to several teams about tampering with players. The league, in a memo, shared its definition of tampering to teams in 2013: