NBA says no tampering found in Simmons-Johnson meeting request

The NBA says Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson did not break any league tampering rules when he spoke about Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons earlier this week.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the NBA said: “We have concluded that Magic Johnson’s statements regarding Ben Simmons do not constitute a tampering violation. The Philadelphia 76ers initiated the contact with the Los Angeles Lakers by requesting a meeting between Johnson and Simmons. Both organizations ultimately concluded that such a meeting did not make sense at this time but in that context, Johnson’s response to a media inquiry regarding Simmons does not run afoul of league rules.”

The NBA’s relatively quick-moving investigation was initiated after it was revealed that Simmons wanted to meet with Johnson to talk about the art of being an elite point guard. Johnson complimented Simmons publicly on Sunday.

“I love his game. I love his vision,” Johnson said.

The NBA was slated to investigate whether league rules were broken when Simmons inquired about meeting with Johnson for playing tips.

League spokesman Mike Bass had said Monday that the NBA planned to look into the matter. Johnson revealed over the weekend that Simmons expressed a desire to meet, through an intermediary, and indicated that he would be willing to partake in such a session with the 76ers’ starting point guard if all parties involved granted permission.

Per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, 76ers general manager Elton Brand called Johnson on Monday afternoon to apologize for insinuating in a radio interview that the Lakers had placed an unprompted call to ask for permission for Johnson to speak with Simmons.

Brand told Philadelphia radio station WPEN that when the request was made about a month ago, he declined. Brand said it was presented by members of Simmons’ inner circle as a way last season’s rookie of the year could raise his game by learning from various greats, and Johnson’s name was on their list.

Brand also told the radio station that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka asked if such a meeting could take place.

“Rob Pelinka called me and said `Hey, we’re hearing Ben wants to talk to Hall of Famers, championship-level players, and Magic’s on the list. We need authorization for him to meet up,”‘ Brand told the radio station. “And I said `No.’ This is over a month ago, so I said no. … We didn’t sign off on whatever they’re talking about.”

The Lakers responded Monday by saying the notion of Simmons meeting with Johnson was first raised in November in an email. The Lakers also confirmed that Pelinka reached out to Brand.

“That was the end of the matter,” the Lakers said in a statement.

Johnson said Sunday that when Simmons reached out in an indirect way about getting together, he responded by saying that the NBA, the 76ers and the Lakers would all have to sign off on such a meeting before one could be scheduled.

“If everybody doesn’t sign off, then we can’t get together,” Johnson said.

Brand told the station that he may be willing to permit the meeting if he was present.

The NBA is taking tampering concerns particularly seriously of late, and the Lakers have been on the league’s radar before. They were fined $50,000 last year when Johnson commented to ESPN about Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo. And in 2017, the Lakers were fined $500,000 when the league found Pelinka had been communicating with Paul George’s agent while George was with the Indiana Pacers.

Like Simmons, Johnson was bigger-than-most point guard. Johnson is 6-foot-9, Simmons is listed at 6-foot-10.

“I love also, too, in terms of basketball IQ … he’s very high basketball IQ. And look at him now. The East better watch out,” Johnson said Sunday.

Said Simmons, when asked later Sunday about Johnson: “To learn from somebody like that would be huge.”

Brand didn’t sound worried that Simmons has any desire to change teams soon.

“He’s really happy here in Philadelphia,” Brand told the radio station.

Simmons is represented by Rich Paul, the agent that also represents Lakers star LeBron James, among others.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.