In a surprising development, the NBA announced that Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers are being investigated for possibly collusion with forward Paul George while the latter was under contract with the Indiana Pacers.
The parallels between the league’s investigation into the Lakers’ possible collusion with Paul George and the federal government’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia are eerily similar. The Lakers are being accused of having colluded to induce Paul George to leave the Pacers for the Lakers to help them win games while the Trump campaign is being accused of colluding with Russia to help win the election.
Both cases are about what’s fair in ultra-competitive sports or politics where anything goes is the norm and winning often excuses everything. Both cases are the result of alleged attempts to increase the chances of winning by bending or breaking the rules, in the Lakers’ case illegally recruiting a player who was under contract with another team and in Trump’s case working with a foreign government to undermine the results of the presidential election.
Ironically, the outcome of both cases will depend upon the testimony and evidence gathered during the investigations. This is where Magic Johnson and Donald Trump, as first time presidents, were vulnerable for making mistakes more experienced executives would not have made, such as Magic carelessly speaking with agent Aaron Mintz about Paul George or Donald Trump, Jr. accepting an ill-advised meeting with the Russians about Hillary.
This is not the time or place to get into the Trump-Russia collusion case other than to say if the allegations are true, the United States has a major problem. Where the similarities between the cases fall apart is nobody knows for sure right now whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia but the almost universal assumption in the Lakers case is the Laker almost surely had contact with Aaron Mintz about Paul George. It’s what NBA teams do all the time.
But if Magic Johnson or Rob Pelinka had illegal conversations with Aaron Mintz, the Lakers are in danger of being guilty of collusion and could be penalized as much as $5 million and be prohibited from signing Paul George. Whomever in the Lakers organization was guilty of improper behavior could also be suspended for 1 or more years. Bottom line, the Lakers reputation and rebuilding efforts would certainly be damaged at the worst possible time.
The simple fact the league was willing to launch a formal investigation is troubling and you would assume based upon more than just a vague complaint from the disgruntled Indiana Pacers. Maybe the Jimmy Kimmel interview was enough or maybe the Pacers had other detailed information. Whatever the evidence or justification, the investigation has started and depositions of Earvin Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and Aaron Mintz are coming.
This is the corner Magic, Rob, Aaron, and Paul have painted themselves into where they may now be forced to testify under oath and penalty of law as to any conversations they may have had about Paul George joining the Lakers. Not a comfortable position for any of the three of them and harsh notice that the NBA’s laisse affair attitude towards teams illegally contacting players under contract with other teams is now officially over regardless of outcome.
I doubt the league wants a reprise of the criticism they endured when David Stern voided the Lakers CP3 trade and certainly not in a situation that’s now standard practice or an environment where players are openly colluding with themselves to create super teams. Hopefully, the investigation will clear the Lakers and serve as notice to all teams to clean up their acts. That would be the fair and logical conclusion to the case and the sooner the better.
On the other hand, it’s not paranoia for Lakers fans to worry about the bitter small-minded small market NBA owners who hate the Lakers and would love nothing more than to see their rebuild and campaign to sign 2 superstars next summer fall flat on its face. You can be sure Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, angry at the incessant rumors of LeBron bolting Cleveland for the Lakers next summer will be leading the charge. Hopefully, Adam Silver will quell the rebellion.