The Bulls may be in trouble for their actions in landing guard Lonzo Ball in free agency.
The NBA has opened an investigation into possible tampering violations in the sign-and-trade agreement that’s set to send Ball from New Orleans to Chicago, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Saturday afternoon. It’s a deal that was agreed to but hasn’t yet become official.
Ball and the Bulls have agreed to a four-year, $85-million deal, the news of which broke from national reporters literally within the first minute of NBA free agency negotiations being allowed to start at 5 p.m. CT last Monday. Teams and players aren’t formally allowed to have discussions ahead of the start of free agency negotiations, though informal talks through back channels and agents is common practice weeks and sometimes even months ahead of time.
The NBA plans to examine the nature of the early contact between Ball, the Bulls and the Pelicans, ESPN reported. The league is probing the same matter in the sign-and-trade that has sent point guard Kyle Lowry from the Raptors to the Heat.
The maximum tampering fine for a team is $10 million, a figure that was elevated two years ago, ESPN reported. Executives are also subject to suspension, while teams are subject to forfeiting draft picks and having the agreed-to contracts voided.
In 2020, the NBA stripped the Bucks of their 2022 second-round pick as punishment for violating tampering rules in a failed sign-and-trade in which they attempted to land guard Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Kings. The NBA found that the Bucks had contacted Bogdanovic and/or his agent before such discussions were allowed.
A restricted free agent, Ball is expected to be routed to Chicago in a sign-and-trade that would send guard Tomas Satoransky, wing Garrett Temple and a second-round pick back to New Orleans.
Ball, 23, averaged 14.6 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 37.8% on 3-pointers last season.