February 14, 2019
NBA: Ben Simmons/Magic Johnson Meeting Talk Leads To Tampering Probe

It's often been alleged that the Los Angeles Lakers have tampered with star players who they are seeking to acquire while the players are still on other teams. Most recently, ESPN's Brian Windhorst alleged that the Lakers tampered with Anthony Davis during the pre-deadline trade talks, leading to the New Orleans Pelicans retaliating by leaking trade rumors in order to sew dissension on the Lakers' roster.

Now, the Lakers are facing an official NBA tampering probe in relation to a different star player.

According to ESPN, the league is looking into whether the Lakers did anything improper in the proposed meeting between Lakers President Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons.

Prior to the Lakers' loss to the Sixers on Sunday in Philadelphia, per the Inquisitr, Johnson told the media that he had heard through an intermediary that Simmons was interested in meeting with him after the season. The reason for the meeting would be that Simmons and Magic are both unusually tall point guards, and Simmons was interested in comparing notes with him. Johnson said that he would be sure to clear the meeting with both teams as well as the league.

However, per the ESPN story, Sixers general manager Elton Brand said Monday that Simmons "has no intention" of meeting with Johnson, and that Brand had a discussion with Rob Pelinka, the Lakers' general manager. Brand added that the Sixers are "not sweating this."

Later in the day came word from the NBA that "the league office is looking into whether any contact took place between Ben Simmons and the Los Angeles Lakers that violated NBA rules."

Simmons is under contract with the 76ers, and is eligible to sign a lucrative extension with Philadelphia this summer. The NBA rumor mill, as stoked by Colin Cowherd last year, has speculated that Simmons might want to eventually play for the Lakers, since his girlfriend, Kendall Jenner, lives in Los Angeles and he shares an agent with current Lakers star LeBron James.

However, NBA rules strongly incentivize star players who are still on their rookie contracts, like Simmons, to sign extensions with their original team. And even if Simmons reaches restricted free agency, the Sixers would have a chance to match any offer he receives. So any move by Simmons to the Lakers is likely several years away.

"I have a great relationship with Ben and [his agent] Rich [Paul] and we expect him to be a Sixer for a long time," Brand said, per ESPN. "He has taken interest in chatting with some of the game's all-time greats and we're supportive."

The Lakers had previously been fined in 2017 for tampering with star forward Paul George. George had expressed interest in signing with the Lakers, but ended up agreeing to an extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder.