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Magic Johnson, Lakers DID NOT Tamper With Paul George

Most NBA insiders, whether executives, players or reporters know that the charge of tampering against the Los Angeles Lakers is pretty bogus. There is a pretty high ceiling for proving tampering and at this particular moment, most people are pointing to a video on Jimmy Kimmel where Magic Johnson made a joke about wink, winking at Paul George when he saw him.

That’s not tampering, that’s a form of back channeling, a form of indirect communication that lets both players and executives know their interest in one another without any direct contact. In this day and age of mass media, its visually impossible to prove tampering based on that interview.

Now, there have been rumors that Magic Johnson has indirectly spoke with Paul George’s agent, who also represents former Laker D’Angelo Russell and current Laker Julius Randle, about George coming to the Lakers. But, once again, if there is no paper trail documenting these interactions, then tampering cannot be proven. Just good old back channeling.

Lets look at an explanation by one of the Lakers main beat reporters, Ramona Shelbourne, why the Lakers missed out on free agent acquisitions in the past.

Part of the reason the Lakers missed out on those cases is a philosophical decision to prioritize superstar free agents above all else. But another read is that the Lakers aren’t moving at the speed NBA business is now being conducted.
Said one player agent, who has dealt with Kupchak on several contracts, “He’s the only GM in the league who won’t engage at all before 9:01 p.m. [PT] on the first night of free agency. Then when he calls to express interest, there’s no stickiness to it.”
Magic Johnson is just being savvy and the Pacers executives know this. They are just upset that they couldn’t get a winning core around George and lost him for minor pieces. At least they got something for him, instead of nothing.

The only concern here for the Lakers in this tampering case, is that the NBA has hired a law firm to investigate the matter instead doing an internal investigation. Several NBA analysts, including Stephen A. Smith found this unusual and alarming.

The Lakers have vehemently denied any tampering and said they are cooperating fully with the investigation. On the surface, there is no evidence that would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Lakers tampered with Paul George. They are as, Shelbourne said, just playing the game up to speed now that Magic Johnson is the head of Basketball Operations.

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