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Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson said Tuesday the organization “did cross a line” in its interactions with former Indiana Pacers forward Paul George and noted he takes “full responsibility.”
Johnson appeared on SportsCenter to discuss the situation, which resulted in a $500,000 fine from the NBA.
“This happened on my watch. It doesn’t affect [controlling owner] Jeanie Buss; she’s been an excellent boss. I love her to death. I love working for her,” he said. “But, at the same time, you have to take ownership and accountability, and so I will do that.”
Johnson added: “Would I admit we did something wrong? No, I would never admit that because we haven’t, but at the same time we have.”
The NBA stated in its news release that “communications by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka with the agent representing Paul George … constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract.” The league also noted Los Angeles had previously been warned after comments by Johnson during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in April.
“The investigation did not reveal evidence of an agreement or understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire Mr. George,” the NBA stated.
Johnson told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times last week he offered to pay the fine himself.
“We can’t say a lot, but we will correct the situation,” he said. “It’s under my watch. I apologize to Jeanie, and that was the main thing. I told her she could take it out of my salary because I don’t want the Lakers to be paying that fine. … I don’t want her spending $500,000, because she didn’t do anything. That’s on me.”
Alas, Johnson said on SportsCenter the league doesn’t allow such transactions: “League rules are when they fine the team, the team has to pay it. I can’t pay it as an individual.”
George ended up getting traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in July. He’ll team up with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook in an effort to take down the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.
His future remains unsettled, though. The 27-year-old Southern California native can decline a player option in his contract after next season to become an unrestricted free agent, and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see him end up with the Lakers in 2018.