On Tuesday, the NBA announced that it had issued a $50,000 fine to the Los Angeles Lakers for violating the league's anti-tampering rule in connection with comments made during a recent media interview involving Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson. The NBA stated that the fine was in relation to Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The NBA previously issued a far harsher $500,000 fine to the Lakers for a violation of the same rule, and this fine comes as a slight surprise if the fine relates to comments Johnson recently made on the topic of Antetokounmpo to ESPN: "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."
That would hardly be considered recruitment or tampering under normal circumstances, but the NBA apparently wanted to send the message that Johnson should refrain from commenting on players on other teams in any capacity or face more fines.
Obviously, the value of the previous fine makes it literally 10 times worse, but the NBA is watching the Lakers' front office closely and clearly not entusiastic about Johnson acting as an analyst for the league in his current offiical role with the Lakers.
Curiously, this news came down on the same day as a report by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne that the Lakers' front office was no longer putting all its eggs in the summer of 2018 free agency basket. Ahead of the 2017-18 season, both Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka had been public about their desire to add two all-star level free agents in the summer of 2018. Tuesday's report suggested that the front office was "re-calibrating" to also target the summer of 2019 as a means to attract the star power the organization desperately craves with Kawhi Leonard one of the potential free agents in 2019.
Getting hit with two tampering violations ahead of a summer where the Lakers could be quieter than previously expected is far from the ideal image the new front office wants to give off. Though the fine seems harsh when analyzing Johnson's actual comments in the recent ESPN story, the fact that the team has to pay the fine is obviously far worse from a publicity standpoint than the actual amount of the fine.