NBA reportedly slaps Lakers with strong punishment for 'tampering'


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For the second time in six months, the Los Angeles Lakers have been fined for tampering with a player on another team.

In August, the Lakers were hit with a $500,000 fine for GM Rob Pelinka having contact with Paul George’s agent.

This time it’s team president Magic Johnson who is at the center of controversy for what he said about the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo. In a seemingly innocent interview, Johnson praised the play of the Bucks superstar, but apparently something he said drew the ire of the NBA.

Asked if he sees similarities between himself and the “Greek Freak,” Johnson told ESPN, “Oh yeah. With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim; I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates. That’s where we [have the] same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play.

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“I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

Johnson also talked about Antetokounmpo’s basketball IQ and compared him to LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant as being an entertainer.

It’s hard to decipher exactly which comment line crossed the line, but most of Johnson’s quotes about Antetokounmpo are no different from an opposing coach talking about him.

The one possibly questionable line is when Johnson said, “And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

Do you think this fine is fair?

Stefan Bondy, an NBA writer for the New York Daily News, says the Bucks filed tampering charges against Johnson and the Lakers as that line could be seen as a recruiting pitch to Antetokounmpo.

Praising a player’s ability is one thing, but apparently calling him a future champion is not allowed. Thus the Lakers were fined $50,000.

What makes this somewhat amusing (to everyone except the Lakers) is that the Bucks proudly displayed Johnson’s comments on an Instagram post.

So Milwaukee used that quote for social media engagement with its fans and then turned around and reported Johnson to the league for saying it.

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When the Lakers were hit with the tampering fine for Paul George, Johnson admitted that he didn’t know all of the rules when it comes to what he can and can not say when he appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

“I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA [collective bargaining agreement] school, salary-cap school and tampering school,” Johnson said with a laugh. “You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”

Johnson apparently didn’t learn his lesson, but it’s not like it’s $50,000 out of his pocket. The Lakers are estimated to be worth $3 billion, which makes this fine 0.00167 percent of the team’s value.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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