Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka came down from their offices at the UCLA Health Training Center to speak with media about the team’s trade of Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
And though the focus was on the Lakers’ shedding salary and new additions — Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a first-round pick in the 2018 Draft — Johnson was asked whether or not he was surprised by a tampering fine for comments made about Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Yes. And still surprised,” he said with a smile.
This week’s punishment marked a second time the Lakers were fined for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule. The $50,000 penalty was a mere slap on the wrist compared to the $500,000 fine the Lakers faced for a matter related to Paul George.
Prior to addressing his fine, Johnson and Pelinka each showed restraint and awareness over limitations in what can publicly be said, even if there aren’t any intentions.
“If you look at the Boston Celtics in the East, they had flexibility to take advantage of a very unique situation that happened in the offseason,” Pelinka began.
“We can’t talk about specific players’ names.” It was at that moment Johnson put his hand over his mouth, drawing light laughter.
Unlike when Johnson joked what he might do if crossing paths with George, the situation with Antetokounmpo was much more innocent and trivial. Johnson’s remarks and praise for Antetokounmpo included a prediction that the young star would eventually win a championship with the Bucks.
Milwaukee used a portion of that quote for a social media post on Instagram. Nonetheless, the NBA took action, perhaps providing a reminder to the Lakers executive that he not let temptation get the better of him during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
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