Wednesday, January 26 2022
Lonzo Ball Kyle Lowry

The NBA has reportedly advanced its investigation into two possible tampering cases in the sign-and-trade deals involving Lonzo Ball’s move to the Chicago Bulls, and Kyle Lowry’s move to the Miami Heat that took place this past offseason, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The league initially launched a probe into both deals on August 7, after it had been rumored for weeks that Ball would land with the Bulls and Lowry would play for the Heat, both in sign-and-trade scenarios.

Once free agency started on Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. ET, the deal that sent Ball to Chicago was announced. The Lowry deal, including the players who would be involved in the sign-and-trade, was reported the night before free agency began, hinting that the Heat were illegally contacting teams and agents to get a deal in place. After both sign-and-trades happened, the NBA decided to look further into both situations to ensure nothing out of order was happening. 

Now, it appears the league is nearing the completion of their search. Per ESPN:

“The NBA has conducted numerous interviews with team executives and player agents and have gathered electronic messaging of front office executives of four teams — Chicago, New Orleans, Miami and Toronto — over the past three months, sources said. The league could reveal its findings and any penalties in the near future.”

Tampering in the NBA is something that the league has been trying to get a better handle on, but it hasn’t always been the easiest to enforce as the punishment isn’t incredibly detrimental. During the 2020 offseason, the Milwaukee Bucks were stripped of a 2022 second-round pick after the league found that they were tampering with Sacramento Kings restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic. In that situation, since Bogdanovic ultimately decided to sign with the Atlanta Hawks, the league took a lenient approach. 

However, teams could be assessed a maximum of $10 million in fines, or team executives could be suspended. In the most extreme of cases, if the league finds tampering with a specific deal, the contracts of that deal could be voided, though that is unlikely to happen in both of these situations, according to Wojnarowski.

But tampering across the league is something that’s considered commonplace as agents, players and front office executives are always talking about potential deals. It’s why a flurry of deals always get announced in the first few hours of free agency every season, because a general framework for trades or signings have likely already been discussed. In regards to Ball and Lowry, it wouldn’t be surprising to see similar punishment that the Bucks faced if the league does find tampering in either case. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s a slap on the wrist for these teams.



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