Bulls Issue Response to Steep Penalty in NBA Tampering Probe

Getty Lonzo Ball

The Chicago Bulls paid $85 million to land Lonzo Ball this offseason, but that’s not all the point guard is going to cost them.

The League Office on Wednesday found that the Bulls violated its tampering policy in their recruitment of Ball, penalizing Chicago a second-round selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, or whenever their next available second-round pick falls. Also caught up in the probe was the Miami Heat. The league levied the same penalty for that franchise’s recruitment of point guard Kyle Lowry.

“The NBA announced today that the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat each violated league rules governing the timing of this season’s free agency discussions and that the league has directed that each team’s next available second-round draft pick be forfeited,” the NBA Communications Department wrote in a press release.

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On Wednesday, the Bulls issued an official statement in response to the NBA’s ruling.

“We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season,” the statement said.

The Heat also responded, saying the following: “While we disagree, we accept the league’s decision.”

Penalties Could Have Been Much Harsher for Bulls

Lonzo Ball

GettyLonzo Ball looks on during an October 15 preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

In explaining its decision, the league sent out a memo to all 32 franchises detailing the punishments and why they were selected. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who obtained a copy of that memo, both teams cooperated fully with the investigation, which was factored in to the penalties they received.

All things considered, Chicago got off easy. Tampering to the degree the Bulls engaged in it is not something foreign to the league. That it happens every single offseason in multiple cases is one of the worst-kept secrets in the contemporary NBA.

To combat the tampering, or at least the perception of it, the league instituted a stiffer penalty structure around the charge in 2019 to give the rule teeth. Beyond being forced to give up draft picks, as the Bulls were made to do on Wednesday, franchises found guilty of tampering can now be fined up to $10 million. Contracts involved with tampering charges may be voided by the NBA, and team executives involved with them are now subject to possible suspension.

Back Story on Tampering Charges

GettyLonzo Ball, point guard of the Chicago Bulls.

The investigations into the tampering allegations against both teams began in August. Free agency began on Aug. 2, which is the first date upon which opposing teams are allowed to begin communicating with players, per league rules. However, it was alleged that the Bulls and the Heat began discussions with Ball and Lowry, respectively, before that date.

Even to the NBA layman not privy to the details of the investigation, it is fairly obvious that the teams knew in some way, shape or form that they would be landing their desired targets. The reason is that both were sign-and-trade deals, which closed quickly after the free agency period opened despite the more complicated nature of such arrangements and the added time it takes to sort them out.

Despite the loss of a second-round pick, the argument can easily be made that the juice was worth the squeeze for the Bulls where tampering is concerned. After already committing $85 million to Ball, a second-round selection is peanuts, particularly when considering what he’s added to the roster this season and how that has translated into on-court success.

Chicago is 14-8 as of Wednesday, good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference more than 25% of the way into the season. The Bulls are outperforming even the most optimistic of preseason predictions for their newly revamped roster, and Ball is one of the primary reasons why. Paired with former Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso, the Bulls backcourt is causing defensive headaches for all comers.

Beyond that, Ball has become an excellent shooter from behind the 3-point line shooting better than 44.4% from deep on nearly 7 attempts per game, per Basketball Reference. He’s averaging 12.5 points per game to go along with 5.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists.

It’s safe to say the Bulls have found their point guard of the future in the 24-year-old Ball and in this day and age in the NBA, you can’t put a price on that.

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