The Lakers are being "investigated by the NBA over allegations of tampering" with Thunder F Paul George while he was still with the Pacers, according to Broderick Turner of the L.A. TIMES. The investigation, which has been "going on since May, stemmed from comments" Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson made on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" that "angered Pacers Owner Herb Simon." ABC's Kimmel asked Johnson what he would do if he saw George while on vacation, and Johnson said, "We can say hi because we know each other. I just can’t say, 'Hey, we want you to come to the Lakers,' even though I’m gonna be wink-winking. You know what that means, right?" George had "mentioned his friendship with Johnson" during his tenure with the Pacers. Reports emerged in June that George's representatives had "informed the Pacers that he planned on opting out of his contract" in '18 to become a free agent, with the "intent of signing with the Lakers." George was traded to the Thunder "later that month." Turner notes team officials are "not allowed to make contact with a player or their representatives until July 1 of the player’s free-agency year," and George will "not be a free agent until next summer." The Lakers "could be fined and lose future draft picks if they’re found guilty of tampering." However, sources said that it would be "difficult to prove that the Lakers tampered with George." The Lakers have "denied any wrongdoing." The NBA in a statement said that the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is "conducting the investigation." Lawyers from the NBA and the outside counsel the Lakers hired to review the matter each deposed Johnson, President Jeanie Buss and GM Rob Pelinka in May (L.A. TIMES, 8/21).
IN HOT WATER: ESPN.com's Wojnarowski & Shelburne wrote 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" or being "part of a trade" to the team. It is "unclear if any evidence exists that could incriminate the Lakers or Johnson" (ESPN.com, 8/20). Meanwhile, USA TODAY's Sam Amick writes Johnson is "sure to be front and center" of the investigation. Johnson has been "open about his affinity for George ever since rejoining the organization's front office in February" (USA TODAY, 8/21). ESPN's Mike Golic Jr. said, “Magic is coming into this from the outside, so he’s coming at it from a place where he has relationships with a lot of these guys. ... One of the things that this opens you up to is sort of a strange place when it comes to this because teams can't reach out, but players can. How do you stop the guys from being friends and talking about work together?” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 8/21).
WHERE THERE'S SMOKE, THERE'S FIRE: In Indianapolis, Brown & Newell write there "must be something about what transpired that does not sit well with the Pacers if a tampering investigation is on the table." They ask, "Did signals from the Lakers, direct or indirect, help change George's mind about staying with the Pacers?" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/21).