Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri broke his silence on the NBA’s investigation into the sign-and-trade deal that sent Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat in exchange for Precious Achiuwa and Goran Dragic during a press conference on Wednesday.
If found guilty, the Heat and the Raptors could be slapped with huge fines, loss of future draft picks, or worse, the league could unwind the whole deal. Ujiri made it clear that he’s got nothing to hide and subtly pointed blame toward the Heat for “gun jumping” on the sign-and-trade.
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TSN reporter Josh Lewenberg tweeted, “Ujiri, asked about NBA tampering investigation: ‘It’s incredible how every NBA team has a deal done by 6:02. All I know is I gave up my phone for investigation. Other than that, I have no comment. That’s my comment.'”
While the Heat were long considered the frontrunners to sign Lowry, suspicion of tampering arose when the six-time All-Star confirmed on Twitter that he was heading to Miami at 6:38 p.m. Eastern time, just 38 minutes after the official start of free agency, 6 p.m. Eastern time on August 2.
The NBA is investigating whether or not the Heat contacted Lowry and/or his agent regarding a potential contract before 6 p.m. on Monday. The league is also concerned about the Chicago Bulls’ acquisition of Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans, which was announced at 6:01 p.m.
Ujiri Harbors No Ill Will Toward Lowry, Calls Him the ‘Best Raptor Ever’
While Ujiri clearly has some unsettled business with the Heat’s front office, those feelings have not affected his feelings toward Lowry. Ujiri, who recently took on the role of vice-chairman while retaining his role as the Raptors president, knew the veteran point guard was on his way out.
“We knew this was coming. The direction of this team was going younger,” Ujiri said, The Athletic’s Eric Koreen tweeted. “We saw our team as being in the middle ground a little bit, and we wanted to go a bit younger so we could start to go.”
Ujiri said Lowry did everything the Raptors asked of him before taking his talents to South Beach. Lewenberg tweeted, “Ujiri: Is Kyle the greatest Raptor that ever played the game here? Yes he is. Kyle is the greatest Raptor.”
“After thanking his family/MLSE/players/fans, Masai acknowledges Lowry,” Lewenberg continued. “They were in communication throughout the process, said Kyle wanted to stay but both parties knew it was time to move on with Raps going younger. We wish him all the best. He’s in great hands in Miami.”
J.J. Redick Believes the Pelicans Reported the Lowry Deal to the NBA
ESPN analyst and former Nets executive Bobby Marks told the Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang earlier this week, “There was a team that complained, and now it’s the league’s job to investigate it.”
While it’s not been officially revealed as to who reported the Heat to the NBA, veteran guard J.J. Redick hinted on his The Old Man and the Three podcast that he believes it’s quite obvious which team made the call.
Redick heavily implies that his former team, the New Orleans Pelicans, not only reported the Heat but also called in the complaint about the Chicago Bulls, who are under investigation concerning the acquisition of Lonzo Ball.
The topic arose after the 37-year-old guard was asked why the NBA starts these kinds of investigations if it’s expected that no meaningful results will come to fruition.
“It’s a little bit for show probably, I guess. I don’t know. I guess you would probably have to ask the guy who’s asking for the investigation,” Redick says. “Some teams cleared cap space to get Kyle and it didnt happen. And Lonzo leaving so you have to ask that guy, that guy complaining.”
Despite New Orleans’ executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin and general manager Trajan Langdon preparing to offer Ball the bag, the Pelicans lost him to the Bulls. After clearing cap space to acquire “a significant” point guard, and offering more money to Lowry than the Heat, Lowry ended up in Miami.