Since the Lakers were hit with a $500,000 fine for tampering with Paul George, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson says he has given the matter little thought except for one thing: He doesn’t want his close friend and boss, Jeanie Buss, to bear the burden of the fine.
“We can’t say a lot but we will correct the situation,” Johnson said Monday. “It’s under my watch. I apologize to Jeanie, and that was the main thing. I told her she could take it out of my salary because I don’t want the Lakers to be paying that fine. … I don’t want her spending $500,000, because she didn’t do anything. That’s on me.”
The NBA hired an independent firm to investigate tampering charges brought by the Indiana Pacers. The firm concluded that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka gave an illegal expression of interest to George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, while George was under contract with the Pacers. Pelinka reports to Johnson.
The league also said it had previously warned the Lakers after Johnson joked with Jimmy Kimmel on the late-night host’s talk show about what communication he is allowed to have with George if they would see each other in the offseason.
“This is just on a late-night show being funny,” Johnson said after touring a donation facility he helped organize with West Angeles Church to benefit victims of Tropical Storm Harvey. “But now I know I can’t do that. We’re OK. I haven’t thought twice about it. We made a mistake. … It’s under my watch. I’m gonna make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.”
The fine was the largest the NBA has ever handed down for tampering, but the league could have enacted harsher penalties, including taking away draft picks or even barring George from signing with the Lakers in free agency.
After the league’s announcement, the Lakers released a statement from Pelinka in which he expressed regret over the incident. The team also released a statement from Adam Streisand, the attorney who represented Buss in the legal battle with her brothers that resulted in her confirmation as the team’s controlling owner for the rest of her life. Streisand said the Lakers “will be hyper-vigilant going forward to make sure this is never an issue again.”
Through a spokesperson, Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard said, “We accept the league’s findings.”
Said Johnson on Monday: “We’re going to have meetings about it next week. … I’m gonna always care about the Laker brand, the Laker fans, so I apologize to them as well. The main thing is we’re going to move forward. We got 95% everything’s going great. This is the one thing that went bad. … This is something we can correct. Adam [Silver, NBA commissioner] is a great friend of mine. I’m glad he was able to do his job. Now I’m gonna do my job.”