The Los Angeles Lakers will have a mountain of cap space at their disposal this summer, which could allow them to quickly re-shape their roster heading into next season. With names like Paul George and LeBron James on the market, it will be up to Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson to sell them on joining his beloved franchise.
Of course, for the time being, Johnson has to be careful that he stays within the NBA’s stringent guidelines regarding tampering. The Lakers faced controversy already this season when they were fined last August for general manager Rob Pelinka’s contact with George’s agent.
More recently, the team was fined, though for a much smaller amount, when Johnson made a seemingly innocent remark about Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antentokounmpo. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss spoke out in defense of Johnson in a recent appearance on “The Full 48 With Howard Beck”:
“The chilling effect that I’m afraid of, I don’t want any basketball to team to feel they can’t hire a former player to be in their front office. Because that is discrimination. That would make it really difficult for former players to find jobs in teams. I don’t think that’s the intention of the rules. I have no regrets in hiring Magic Johnson and having him as the face of the franchise. I want him to continue to do that. I think this is just some sort of discussion we’re going to have to have at the board of governors level to make sure that we’re really addressing what the fears and concerns are of other teams. Nobody should have an unfair advantage. I’m all about fairness. I do want other teams who are possibly tampering or doing things, to be treated similarly to how we’ve been treated.”
As Buss notes, Johnson’s arrival has brought increased attention to the Lakers’ front office and their recruiting efforts. They have made little effort to disguise their plans to chase the top free agents on the market, and Johnson’s charisma and connection with players will certainly come in handy.
That said, it will be interesting to see if the tampering spotlight being placed on the Lakers will ultimately lead to more scrutiny across the league for teams that bend the rules.