The NBA finally acted on its investigation of player tampering by issuing the Los Angeles Lakers a $500,000 fine on Thursday, August 31, 2017. In response to communications between Lakers representatives and Paul George, then of the Indiana Pacers, the fine is a surprising move considering the prevalence of social media and player-management interaction throughout the league.
Earlier this summer, Portland Trailblazers Guard CJ McCollum joined the Carmelo Anthony trade talks by posting a doctored picture of him in a Blazers uniform. Similarly, the Houston Rockets jumped immediately on the Chris Paul trade, likely informed of CP3’s interest in joining Houston by friend and USA Basketball teammate James Harden.
Though tampering in the LA case originated from Lakers’ management and not players, (a notable occurrence being a “wink, wink” gesture from Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show April 20, 2017), the Collective Bargaining Agreement explicitly states that, “Any Player who, directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce, or persuade any Player, Coach, Trainer, General Manager or any other person who is under contract to any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiates or contracts for such services…,” falls under the tampering rule-set and is subject to further investigation.
That the NBA dragged itself into an investigation considering its generally lax stance on tampering in recent years is more surprising than the fine itself. In March 2016, LeBron James, a member of the Cavaliers, jaunted down to Miami to partake in a mid-season workout with close friend and former Heat teammate Dwyane Wade. Though placed under the guise of friendship and basketball activity, the workout could very well have been considered tampering by a stricter NBA governing body.
Although, Paul George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final year of his contract, he made it abundantly clear throughout the season of his intentions to suit up for his hometown Lakers in the near future. Despite the investigation, whether a crackdown on tampering becomes a leaguewide precedent is yet to be seen, as media channels regularly report player interactions that teeter on the tampering line. The lack of any long term consequences for the Lakers however, such as a larger fine or loss of future draft picks seems to signal that a revolution in NBA tampering is not yet in sight.