ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne were the to first break the news on Saturday, August 7, that the Heat were under investigation. On Sunday, more details surrounding the investigation were revealed.
ESPN analyst and former Nets executive Bobby Marks told the Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang, “There was a team that complained, and now it’s the league’s job to investigate it.”
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Who Reported Miami?
So, what team reported Miami to the NBA? Marks said we can eliminate the Toronto Raptors as a suspect, as they received Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa from the Heat in the sign-and-trade deal.
“The thing here where it’s a little bit different is it’s not one of these teams complaining about each other,” Marks said. “Everyone benefited. Nobody got screwed over and then one team is complaining about the other team tampering. So they all benefited. But the sign-and-trade at 6 o’clock when it comes out is a major red flag.”
Numerous other teams were interested in Lowry before free agency started. It could be that another franchise that felt like they didn’t get a fair shot at signing the veteran guard reported Miami to the NBA.
Lowry’s Sign & Trade Deal was Confirmed Only 38 Minutes After Free Agency Officially Started
While the Heat were long considered the frontrunners to sign Lowry, suspicion of tampering arose when the six-time All-Star confirmed he was taking his talents to South Beach on Twitter at 6:38 p.m. Eastern time. Per NBA rules, a team is not allowed to make contact with the free agent or his representatives until the 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 Chicago Bulls are also under investigation concerning their acquisition of Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans, which was announced at 6:01 p.m.
“When the moratorium lifted, that was the first transaction,” Marks said. “So if you’re the league, you’re thinking wait a minute. A complicated sign-and-trade, how did this come about? So I think you just got to be smart about it.”
“Just wait an hour for it come out,” Marks continued.
As Chiang pointed out, Marks speaks from experience, having been part of the Nets front office when the team was investigated for tampering on the contract of forward Andrei Kirilenko. In that case, other teams raised concerns with the league after Kirilenko opted out of his $10 million option to sign a two-year, $6.5 million deal with Brooklyn, which was then owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
Rumors swirled that Prokhorov had a side deal with Kirilenko, who is also Russian. The NBA cleared the Nets in that case. Still, Marks called the process “one of the most uncomfortable things,” because the league hires an outside law firm that examines texts and emails. “It’s almost like you’re guilty before you’re innocent,” Marks added.
If Found the Heat Are Found Guilty, What Kind of Punishment Will They Face?
If the league is successful in proving tampering took place, the repercussions will be disastrous. Chiang and Barry Jackson reported, “If the NBA nullified the Lowry deal, Dragic and Achiuwa potentially could be returned to the Heat and Miami would not have cap space to improve the roster other than through trades and a $3.6 million bi-annual exception.
“The Heat’s 2023 and 2025 first-round picks are owned by Oklahoma City, so stripping the Heat of draft picks could further deplete Miami’s limited remaining trade assets,” Jackson noted.
However, Marks doesn’t believe the punishment will be that harsh. “I would say highly, highly unlikely that the trade will be voided and that Kyle is a free agent all of a sudden,” he told Chiang. “I think what will happen is if they’re found guilty, there will be some financial penalty and draft picks will be lost here. That’s kind of how I see it.”
According to Article 35A of the NBA Constitution, “No person may, directly or indirectly … entice, induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services or … otherwise interfere with any such employer-employee relationship (or prospective employer-employee relationship in the case of a Player subject to exclusive negotiating rights) of any other Member of the Association.” Penalties for violating the anti-tampering rule can include suspension, forfeiture or transfer of draft picks and fines up to $10 million.