NBA to investigate if Lakers, Ben Simmons contact violated rules

ByAdrian Wojnarowski ESPN logo
Monday, February 11, 2019

Amid an NBA probe into possible tampering, Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand tells ESPN that his star guard Ben Simmons has no intention of working out with Lakers president Magic Johnson and simply wanted the Sixers to help him facilitate "chatting with some of the game's all-time greats."

"No issue," Brand told ESPN on Monday. "I have a great relationship with Ben and [his agent] Rich [Paul] and we expect him to be a Sixer for a long time. He has taken interest in chatting with some of the game's all-time greats and we're supportive.

"I had brief dialogue with [Lakers GM] Rob Pelinka, who I've known for a long time, but nothing is planned. Our collective focus is on making a postseason push.

"Again, we're not sweating this -- end of story."

NBA spokesman Mike Bass told ESPN on Monday that, "The league office is looking into whether any contact took place between Ben Simmons and the Los Angeles Lakers that violated NBA rules."

The Lakers issued a statement on the matter Monday.

"To clarify, last November the 76ers sent an email to the Lakers asking if Ben Simmons would be able to speak with Magic Johnson about his Hall of Fame playing career," it read. "After receiving the email request from the 76ers, Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka contacted 76ers General Manager Elton Brand and informed him that Magic could only do so if the 76ers gave him pre-written approval. That was the end of the matter."

Simmons and Johnson are both 6-foot-9-plus point guards. Simmons is eligible to sign his rookie contract extension with the Sixers after the season.

Johnson told reporters on Sunday in Philadelphia, "[Simmons] reached out to me, not to me directly; to the Lakers to find out if we can get together this summer. I said, 'Hey, you've got to clear that with the league,' and if everybody -- the Sixers sign off, we sign off, the league signs off -- fine, I will do that. ... But I love his game. I love his vision. I love also, too, he's very, in terms of basketball IQ, very high basketball IQ."

In 2017, the NBA fined the Lakers $500,000 for violating anti-tampering rules; Pelinka was found to have violated league rules in his dealings with Paul George and his agent. The Lakers were fined $50,000 in 2018 for comments Johnson made about Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Recently, the Lakers attempted to trade for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, who is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports -- the same agency that represents Los Angeles' LeBron James. Paul and James have been friends since childhood, which led many to wonder if Paul was attempting to align two of his star clients together in Los Angeles.

Paul and Klutch Sports also represent Simmons.

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