Before the champagne has even warmed from celebrating the Miami Heat‘s incredibly successful week of free agency moves, a new investigation by the NBA could shut down the entire party.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to break the news on Saturday that the Heat is under investigation for possible tampering violations when negotiating the sign-and-trade deal that brought Kyle Lowry to Miami.
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“The NBA has opened up investigations into possible tampering violations involving two sign-and-trade deals completed in free agency: New Orleans and Chicago centered on Lonzo Ball, and Toronto and Miami centered on Kyle Lowry,” Woj tweeted.
While the gut reaction to hearing such news is a giant eye roll, tampering is such a grey area in the NBA and difficult to prove one way or another, but the repercussions if the Heat are found guilty are no joke. One of the main focuses of the investigation will be figuring out whether or not the Heat spoke with Lowry about a contract before it was officially permitted at 6 p.m. on Monday.
In addition to possible fines, suspensions and the loss of draft picks, Wojnarowski tweeted. “Team execs can also have their communications – such as phone records, texts and emails – randomly audited.”
If the league is successful in proving tampering took place, the repercussions will be disastrous. Miami Herald‘s 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.
The NBA Can Levy Fines up to $10 Million for Tampering
According to Article 35A of the league’s 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. “Penalties for violating this anti-tampering rule could include suspension, forfeiture or transfer of draft picks and fines up to $10 million, the document says.
As Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann explained, “These are hardly light sanctions—if only they were imposed. … Therein lies the problem. Actual punishments for tampering have been decidedly modest.”
That’s why, in 2019, the NBA’s Board of Governors voted unanimously to double the potential fine for tampering, bumping it up to its present-day eight figures, McCann said.
“There was a strong view, I think, of every single person in the room that we need to ensure that we’re creating a culture of compliance in this league and that our teams want to know that they’re competing on a level playing field,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said after the board’s decision, according to the Los Angeles Times, “and frankly, [teams] don’t want to feel disadvantaged if they are adhering to our existing rules.”
Heat President Pat Riley was Fined for Violating Anti-Tampering Rules in June
President Pat Riley was slapped with a fine following his comments concerning Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. On June 9, 2021, the NBA announced Riley would have to pay $25,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule.
Riley made the comments during his appearance on “Le Batard and Friends” show on June 4, one day after the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs in Game 6 against the Phoenix Suns.
Riley said that if LeBron ever wanted to return to South Beach, the door is open. “I would leave the key under the doormat if he would call and let me know he’s coming,” he said. “I would do that, but I doubt very much if that key … that key’s rusted now.”
“LeBron is, look he’s one of the greatest of all time,” Riley continued. “And for four years down here, if we want to go back and just remember what those four years were like — four years in the Finals, four years of excitement, two world championships — with LeBron, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Udonis [Haslem], all of them. It was the best time for the Heat.
“So I wish him nothing but the best, and if he ever wanted to come back, then I’ll put a new shiny key under the mat.”
Getting fined by the NBA didnt’ come as a huge surprise for Riley — he actually mentioned during the interview that he might get fined by the league for tampering, as the 36-year-old former MVP is under contract in Los Angeles through the 2022-23 season.