The Los Angeles Lakers responded Sunday to tampering allegations made against them by the Indiana Pacers.
Lakers director of media relations Alison Bogli announced: “As the NBA‘s statement made clear, we cannot comment about the specifics of any ongoing investigation. We can confirm, however, that we are cooperating fully with the NBA in the hope of clearing our name as soon as possible.”
This comes after reporter Peter Vecsey reported the NBA was investigating the Lakers for potentially tampering with then-Pacer Paul George. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN also reported the news, specifying the “probe centered on possible impermissible contact” between George and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
Bogli’s comments referred to the NBA’s statement asking the Pacers and Lakers to “refrain from commenting,” which Sean Highkin of The Athletic passed along in full:
“At the request of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA opened an investigation into alleged tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers. The independent investigation is being conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The Lakers have been cooperative and, at this point, no findings have been made. We have asked both teams to refrain from commenting while the investigation is ongoing.”
Los Angeles didn’t issue a formal denial in its statement, but Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com reported the team is denying the allegations and believes it will be cleared following the league’s investigation.
Wojnarowski and Shelburne explained a guilty finding could result in a number of punishments for the Lakers, including a fine of up to $5 million, potential suspensions of team officials involved in the tampering while George was under contract with the Pacers and even restrictions on potentially landing George in the future.
“If the NBA were to find evidence that the Lakers had engaged in a side agreement with George, he could be prohibited from signing a free-agent deal with Los Angeles or being part of a trade to the Lakers,” they wrote.
Although Indiana ultimately traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, George has been connected with the Lakers throughout much of the offseason.
Wojnarowski—then of The Vertical—reported in June the star told the Pacers he planned on becoming a free agent following the upcoming season instead of exercising his player option for 2018-19 and eyed the Lakers as his preferred destination.
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