The NBA levied a precedent-cementing $500,000 fine on the Los Angeles Lakers organization Thursday for violating the league's notoriously nebulous anti-tampering rule.

The fine came after the league warned the Lakers about team president Magic Johnson's appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in April during which he joked that he planned to deliver a sort of come-play-for-us, wink-wink to Paul George, then a member of the Indiana Pacers, should Johnson run into him in Los Angeles in the summertime.

The league's investigation found that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and George's agent, Aaron Mintz, had discussions in which George's name came up and Pelinka offered a "prohibited expression of interest" to Mintz.

The finding comes off a little like a state trooper pulling over a single car for speeding when the flow of traffic is all pushing 80, or the NCAA targeting a specific program for a probe while infractions run rampant among all its competitors in the conference in which it plays. That is to say, if there is a rule in place that can't be universally enforced, those who do get caught for breaking it end up as almost sympathetic characters in a way.

One Western Conference executive reached for comment Thursday night told ESPN that the league was "at least trying to get serious" about tampering, but added that the proper penalty for what the Lakers did should be $1 million or the loss of a second-round pick at the least to serve as a "true deterrent" to keep other teams from doing the same. Another Eastern Conference GM suggested some sort of suspension system be put in place.

Pelinka, in a statement, said, "We respect and accept the NBA's decision regarding this matter." It's not like he could feign ignorance about the rule. A Western Conference coach told ESPN that "we are constantly bombarded with the rules about tampering from the league office."

Yet, others aim at the rule itself before blaming Pelinka.