No one cares that the Lakers tampered with Paul George two years prior to his free agency, even though everyone assumes it happened. Even though the Pacers filed tampering charges, they have to know the NBA won’t do much more than slap Magic and the Lakers on the wrist, at best.
But all of the leaks during the season about PG’s “people” (agent Aaron Mintz) and the Lakers sharing mutual interest along with instructions not to trade any assets, rubbed the Pacers the wrong way.
As Bob Kravitz reports, the buzz about PG suddenly becoming a life-long Lakers fan (he actually liked the Clippers) started the frustrating series of events that pushed the Pacers to file the charges to raise awareness of the impact all of the “wink, wink” tampering can have on small-market teams.
After Magic winked on The Jimmy Kimmel Show and then the Pacers heard the ultimate exit strategy from Mintz, the Herb Simon and Kevin Pritchard had heard enough. The wheels were in motion for the Pacers to turn their frustrations into an official complaint to the league which they did prior to trading PG.
The frustration felt by the Pacers front office was quite similar to the great frustration Paul George often expressed about not getting critical calls to go his way against team’s led by LeBron or based in Chicago, Miami and other big markets.
In fact, I feel that frustration over time played a big role in PG changing his mind about being a Pacers legend. His fire to beat ‘em turned into a desire to join ‘em. No doubt that mindset was easily cajoled by Mintz and others close to PG and in the current NBA where a player of PG’s stature can make a move happen.
But the Pacers organization can’t give in and move on quite so easily, even if they wanted to. Instead they can continue to fight, along with other small-market teams, to level the playing field among unequal organizations as much as possible.
As Kravitz mentioned, the Pacers pushed forward with their tampering complaint with the support of other small-market teams. While everyone laughs about the joke the NBA’s tampering rules have become, the Pacers have at least raised awareness that it is hard enough to keep players around without blatant tampering two years in advance which guts the team prematurely.
So while the Lakers and Paul George pushed the Pacers over the edge to file tampering charges, the only positive result may be for the next team facing the same situation.
Oh, and I remain convinced that any tampering regarding PG going to the Lakers was spearheaded by LeBron James in an effort to orchestrate his final act in the NBA. Certainly, the final episode plot twist this Neftlix series of an offseason for the Pacers deserves.