The champagne was still cold from celebrating the Miami Heat‘s incredibly successful week of free agency moves when it was announced that the team was being investigated by the NBA for the sign-and-trade deal that brought Kyle Lowry to South Beach.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne broke the news on August 7 that the Heat were under investigation for possible tampering violations due to how quickly the Heat secured Lowry after the free agency period officially started at 6 p.m. ET on August 2.
The sign-and-trade deal that sent Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa to Toronto in exchange for the six-time All-Star took just 38 minutes.
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According to Stein, the chances that the NBA unwinds Lowry’s sign-and-trade is “slim to none,” which is obviously fantastic news for Miami’s front office.
“‘Unwinding one of these deals, to use the insider term for dismantling an NBA transaction, is probably the only measure that the league could take to truly dissuade such overt rule-breaking,” but Stein also notes that no one he’s spoken to over the past few days expects the “sign-and-trade to be rescinded” after it was “publicly announced as complete.”
The Heat are Under Investigation for ‘Gun Jumping’ Not ‘Tampering’
Stein also clarified that Miami is not under investigation for tampering, but for “gun jumping.”
While tampering “typically refers to the practice of a front-office executive, coach, or player trying to entice a player under contract with another team to join their franchise,” gun jumping is quite different.
NBA general counsel Rick Buchanan explained the difference by recalling the Bucks’ punishment for their attempted acquisition of restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovich from the Sacramento Kings. The NBA not only voided the trade but Milwaukee was also fined $50,000 and docked a future second-round pick.
“[It’s] the idea that the flag for free agency goes down at the same time and everybody should start having those conversations at the same time for reasons of competitive fairness,” Buchanan said. “This is not about tampering.
“Tampering is the rule where you’re having impermissible contacts with a player who is under contract to another team. And so [with the Bucks], the violation was that the team had conversations about a free-agent contract with the representative for this player prior to the time when the CBA permitted them to do that, and as a result they were penalized.”
Miami’s Negotiations to Obtain Lowry Before the Trade Deadline Will Likely Help Clear the Heat from Serious Charges
Miami’s case is unique from the Bucks’ violation due to the fact that the Heat nearly acquired Lowry before the March 25 deadline, discussions that were perfectly legal at the time.
Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman reported on August 8, “According to an NBA party familiar with the league’s tampering investigation, the Heat’s maneuvering for Lowry differs significantly” not just from the Bucks, but the NBA’s investigation into the Chicago Bull’s acquisition of Lonzo Ball, which took place one minute after free agency officially started.
Miami can counter the NBA’s investigation by saying that the reason it didn’t take long for the Heat, Raptors, and Lowry to agree to a deal was because all the complicated parameters of such a deal were discussed months before.
“Unlike with the Ball situation, the Heat previously had been involved in extensive negotiations with the Raptors at the March 22 NBA trading deadline regarding Lowry’s availability,” Winderman wrote. “With the NBA investigating the timing of the sign-and-trade transaction utilized by the Miami Heat to land free-agent guard Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors, several mitigating factors would appear to stand in the Heat’s favor.”
“At the time, the Raptors laid out potential parameters for a trade, an NBA source confirmed to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, with it also clear at the time what the financial parameters would be to sign Lowry in free agency.”