On Saturday night, longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey came from outta nowhere to report a story that has the potential, if proven, to dramatically alter the landscape of the much-anticipated 2018 free agency period.
In confirming Vecsey’s scoop, Woj and Ramona Shelburne elaborated on what the consequences could be if it’s proven that Magic Johnson, the focus of the probe, and the Lakers were proven to have tampered with Paul George:
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.
We already knew that it was going to be difficult for the Lakers to afford two max players. As Woj said last week on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, they need to unload Luol Deng’s burdensome contract, and to do that they’re going to have to give something good up.
IF the Lakers are found guilty in this matter — which would require a pretty brazen/dumb paper trail left by Magic Johnson and/or his associates — and the NBA rules that Paul George is no longer permitted to sign there next offseason, would this still be the optimal destination for LeBron?
Beyond that, if the Lakers tampered with Paul George, it would stand to reason that they tampered with LeBron as well. It seems much longer ago but it was just last June that Magic had to give up his ceremonial title with the Lakers because he tweeted a profound observation about how the team should target LeBron and Durant in free agency. This past week, LeBron wished Magic a happy birthday and thanked him for being “One of the few that’s always showed love from day 1.”
LeBron doesn’t do anything on social media by accident. If the Pacers’ probe is successful, or even if it’s not, wouldn’t Dan Gilbert be the exact type of owner to follow suit with tampering charges of his own?
When Dan Le Batard wondered aloud whether Magic Johnson was qualified for this role, these types of scenarios were part of what he was talking about. Magic is way too casual about laying his cards on the table — can you ever remember an NBA executive going on the radio and saying something like, “Brandon Ingram is our only untouchable player”?
While the league undoubtedly wants Magic and Rob Pelinka to Make the Lakers Great Again, if Magic did leave a paper trail, Adam Silver is going to be in the uncomfortable position of having to make an example out of the Lakers.
Clearly, we are at the preliminary stages of this tampering probe. The Lakers, via an anonymous team official to ESPN, deny wrongdoing and in their team statement they said they expect to be cleared quickly.
But what if it’s the tip of the iceberg for a series of unfortunate events?