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Volume 24 No. 179


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:'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" (, 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).

The Raiders "remain hugely popular" in L.A., and based on the "robust response from the Southland on season-ticket deposits for the Raiders soon-to-be new home in Las Vegas, that doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon," according to Vincent Bonsignore of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Raiders Owner Mark Davis said a "good portion" of deposits have come from L.A. and Southern California. Davis: "Without stepping on any toes, we’re going to market ourselves in [the] Los Angeles area. And San Diego. We’re reaching out to Raider Nation in Southern California. It’s strong there." Davis is "keeping an eye on things down" in L.A. Davis: "You know, it’s kind of funny. They’re talking about the fight for Los Angeles. And Raiders fans have been telling me we already won that fight, and that the Rams and Chargers are fighting for the No. 2 and 3 spots." It will be three years before the Raiders finally "settle into their new home, and while it all seems so far off in the distance, it’s clear the Raiders and their beloved Oakland faithful are operating on borrowed time together." Davis "hopes to play" in Oakland in '19 but that is "still up in the air." Davis "isn’t trying to minimize the affects of his Raiders leaving Oakland." He "talks to fans all the time, understands their hurt and appreciates their disappointment." Davis: "I have no problems with the politicians here. ... But when you get them all together, it’s a tough situation. They made decisions they felt was the best for their communities. And again, we understand that" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/20).

CHARGED UP? In Caliornia, Jeff Miller notes the official attendance for yesterday's Saints-Chargers preseason game at StubHub Center "was 21,197, a few more than were here Aug. 13 for the first exhibition of a team still trying to show it’s wanted in its new home." The "Fight For L.A." will be an "uphill one, this relocated franchise first needing to get L.A.’s attention before going after L.A.’s heart." As far as honeymoons go, this one "appears to be over before it had a chance to get started." The Chargers now have "twice failed to attract more fans to this stadium" than the Galaxy did for their most recent home game. What is "even stranger for the Chargers is the fact their new home itself was expected to be a bigger draw ... because it isn’t big at all" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/21). In San Diego, Nick Canepa writes, "This franchise is going to fail in L.A." The Spanos family "should sell the team to someone who can afford it and move the club back here, where it would be welcomed with a new boss who can do something other than give away hot dogs and tattoos and come up with lame slogans" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/21).

NOT ABOUT THE SIZE: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes for an NFL viewing experience, StubHub Center "kicks the concrete out of the Coliseum." Though it is "completely lacking in the Coliseum’s majesty, totally devoid of its tradition," StubHub Center is "just a much, much better place to watch a pro football game." The Chargers have "rightfully taken a lot of heat for failing to sell out the stadium’s roughly 27,000 seats for either of their first two preseason games." Yet spend five minutes at StubHub and "realize, this stadium can be their great equalizer" (L.A. TIMES, 8/21). In Baton Rouge, Joel Erickson writes from the moment fans "walk in the gate, there are employees greeting you with a smile, far friendlier than the reception at any other stadium." But as "new and clean" as StubHub Center is -- it is in "far better shape than the terrifying reclamation project that was Qualcomm Stadium -- it doesn't feel big enough for the NFL." StubHub is "perfect for the preseason." The sight lines are "incredible, fans are closer to the action than ever before" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 8/21).

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT? Chargers VP/PR Josh Rupprecht said that for most practices at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, "attendance has been around 2,000 a day." In California, Jim Alexander noted it is "difficult to tell how many, if any, of those who show up are new fans." The "suspicion" from fan reaction at a recent practice is that "many if not most are pre-existing Chargers fans." If the club is "truly going to 'fight for L.A.' the already converted alone won’t be enough" (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 8/19).

Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria said that he has "no reservations about selling the team," according to Tim Healey of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. As his final season as owner winds down, Loria said that he is not "sad to be giving it up." Loria: "I have no sad feelings whatsoever. I love this game." He has not "publicly explained his reasoning" for selling the franchise, and "declined to Saturday." Loria said, "It’s very personal reasons I don’t want to discuss. Very." The new ownership, led by Derek Jeter and former Private Capital Management co-Founder Bruce Sherman, would "take over shortly after the end of the regular season Oct. 1." Beyond that, Loria said that he has not "decided whether or not he will try to stay involved in baseball." Loria: "I haven’t given it any thought. No thought." Loria does not "make much of these being his final" days as Marlins Owner either. He said, "I haven’t given it a second thought" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/20). Meanwhile, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said it is "good to finally see some clarification" on the ownership situation. He said, "I don’t know any of the other people really involved with it, but I know in Derek, you get a guy that’s first class that hasn’t really been unsuccessful in anything that he’s done." Mattingly: "You feel like you’re getting a good baseball person there” (“High Heat,” MLB Network, 8/18).

BITTERSWEET SAGA: In Miami, Greg Cote wrote fans are "not even allowed to cheer" Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton’s historic home run chase "without the overarching gray cloud and nuisance of speculation about whether he’s long for this team." Stanton "should be as untouchable as any pro athlete in this market." Anybody but Loria owning the Marlins is "parade-worthy in South Florida and Stanton’e epic season is, too, and yet the kill-joy clatter about trading Stanton won’t stop." The Marlins under new ownership need to "solidify Stanton as the focal point and face of the franchise and construct a winner around him so that he wants to stay" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/20).

In L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the Dodgers' front office "did it again" by acquiring RF Curtis Granderson from the Mets on Friday night for "virtually nothing." This marks the third season President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi have been with the team, and it is clear they "understand Dodgers fans' anguish." Plaschke: "This is all about a ring. That's what they're selling" (L.A. TIMES, 8/20). Meanwhile, on Long Island, David Lennon noted this season "represents a few steps backwards" for the Mets despite an Opening Day payroll of $155M. A "costly belly-flop of this degree is the type of thing that can lead to changes in the front office." However, the number of injuries this year gives Mets GM Sandy Alderson a "built-in excuse" (NEWSDAY, 8/20).

HOWLING WOLVES: T'Wolves CEO Ethan Casson said the team two weeks ago surpassed the "number of new season tickets that we sold all of last year." He said, "The response has been incredible. ... We're renewing at a higher percentage than we have for many years. All indicators and data points right now are suggesting incredible momentum and optimism" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/20).

A GAME OF JAX: NASL Jacksonville Armada Owner Robert Palmer said that the club's "attendance woes have become his main focus." The Armada drew a crowd of just 780 for Wednesday's loss to Puerto Rico FC, the "lowest in club history" and the lowest figure in NASL this season. Palmer said, "I want to give a more accurate picture to fans, to sponsors about how much engagement we really have. ... We're going to have a more transparent method for calculating attendance going forward" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/21).