Paul George, Magic Johnson

The NBA punished the Los Angeles Lakers for making comments regarding their interest in Paul George with a hefty tampering fine of $500,000. This doesn’t change the fact that they remain the favorites to sign the small forward, who will spend his contract year with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This is the second biggest fine for tampering in NBA history, sitting well behind the $3.5 million the Minnesota Timberwolves received during the Joe Smith saga, along with three first round draft picks they lost. The Timberwolves cut a deal with Smith by signing him below market value, but promising him a bigger deal in the future, something he agreed to.

The NBA only punished the Lakers for comments made by Magic Johnson, the man making the decision for the Lakers these days, on the Jimmy Kimmel show regarding George signing with the team. The league didn’t find any evidence that the Lakers made some sort of agreement, written or verbal, with George or his agent regarding a contract once George becomes a free agent in the summer of 2018.

The Indiana Pacers, the team that drafted George back in 2010, traded him on July 6 to the Oklahoma City Thunder for what is considered a low return: Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. George, entering the final year of his contract before a player option he is guaranteed to decline, had no intention of re-signing with the Pacers, letting them know. The Pacers made the trade, and later filed a complaint with the league over the tampering they felt hurt their attempt to receive more for George during free agency.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George

All this doesn’t change the main issue here: The Lakers are probably going to sign him in 2018, unless he and Russell Westbrook do something incredible together. However, as we see with the Kyrie irving situation in Cleveland (now traded to the Boston Celtics), even winning championships isn’t enough to stop players from leaving if they really want.

George, entering his 8th NBA season, is a 4-time All-Star, averaging 23.4 points per game over the last two seasons after missing almost all of the 2014-2015 season due to a broken leg. He shot an impressive 46.1% from the field and 39.3% from beyond the arc last season, and besides the WOW factor his partnership with Westbrook potentially has, it’ll be interesting to see if he plays as a Small Forward full time, or spend some time at the ‘4’ or even the ‘2’. The Pacers played more small ball (especially in 2015-2016) than before over the last two seasons, putting George at Power Forward a lot of the time.