The Los Angeles Lakers front office of president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka managing to have a successful trade deadline took some heat off of the duo after a week in which they were fined for tampering for the second time this season, getting a $50,000 slap on the wrist for comments Johnson made about Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The fine came on the heels of the Lakers receiving a $500,000 fine last year for making contact with Paul George’s agent about the forward and his forthcoming free agency in July.
Johnson’s comments on Antetokounmpo earning him a fine was the source of some controversy, however, with Johnson himself expressing surprise that his words earned him the ire of the NBA.
He wasn’t the only one caught off guard for the fine. Even Antetokounmpo himself was surprised the kind words Johnson had for him were enough to upset the league, via USA TODAY Sports:
“I don’t know. It was just a compliment, I don’t think Magic Johnson was tampering in any way. It was just a compliment towards a player. He was asked about a player and he gave a compliment. I don’t know what the rules are. If you get fined for a compliment, you get fined for a compliment,” Antetokounmpo said.
Johnson getting fined was probably as much because the Lakers are now repeat offenders than what he said about Antetokounmpo not being fairly benign as far as tampering goes. Especially considering the comments were literally about how great Antetokounmpo will be in Milwaukee.
The league also has far worse tampering take place all the time as agents and front offices backchannel about free-agents-to-be, which is how teams end up signing players at midnight on July 1 of free agency when they legally weren’t allowed to talk before that under the current NBA collective bargaining agreement.
Still, the league was probably concerned about precedent and not allowing executives to hide their public wooing of stars behind calling them compliments, which is why Johnson is now $50,000 poorer, even if he and the player he was talking about are confused by it.
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