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Bulls, Heat lose second-round draft picks

After an investigation that lasted almost four months, the NBA announced Wednesday that the Bulls and Heat will forfeit second-round picks for having premature discussions with then-pending free agents Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry. Plus, the Bulls will be without guard Coby White after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Considering the punishment that could have been handed down to the Bulls’ organization Wednesday afternoon, the franchise had to feel very good about what amounted to a slap on the wrist.

In the wake of an investigation by the NBA that began almost four months ago, both the Bulls and the Heat were hit with the loss of second-round draft picks for what the league determined to be premature discussions into the then-pending free agency of Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry.

While the Bulls have stayed quiet throughout the process, they did issue a statement after the punishment was announced, saying “We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season.’’

They should also be glad that the NBA felt that both organizations fully cooperated, hence lessening the extent that the punishment could have reached.

The NBA has gone out of its way the last few years to stop the practice of recruiting and tampering by organizations during the free-agent period and put in penalties that included fining teams up to $10 million, suspending executives and front-office personnel, forfeiting draft picks and even the voiding of contracts.

When free agency opened Aug. 2, the Bulls and Heat opened some eyes with the NBA office, announcing sign-and-trade deals for Ball and Lowry, respectively, just minutes into the opening window. Sign-and-trades usually take some work to get completed, so that’s why the spotlight moved in that direction.

The Bulls made a deal with the Pelicans to acquire Ball, signing the point guard to a four-year, $80 million contract, while sending over Garrett Temple and Tomas Satoransky.

Miami negotiated a three-year, $85 million deal for Lowry, shipping Goran Dragic and Precious Achjuwa to the Raptors.

“While we disagree, we accept the league’s decision,’’ the Heat said in a statement.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan was just glad the entire situation was in the rearview mirror.

“I’m obviously, for the organization, happy it’s over and done with,’’ Donovan said. “Before anything came out, [Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas] was very transparent with me that this was going on, but just based on the league and the way it was being handled, just wasn’t able to offer me any information. Outside of finding out that it all got put to bed [Wednesday], in the middle of that I really wasn’t involved at all.’’

Plus, Donovan had enough on his table to deal with in-house.

After losing Nikola Vucevic for seven games because of a positive test for the coronavirus last month, Donovan found out just before the trip to New York that Coby White was the latest Bull to test positive.

White won’t play against the Knicks and Nets and will need to pass a cardiovascular scanning before being cleared to resume activities.

White, who missed all of the summer workouts and fall camp because of left shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, was just starting to find his rhythm and see increased playing time. So the timing couldn’t be much worse.

“I feel bad for Coby just because he’s coming off the shoulder injury,’’ Donovan said. “He’s trying to find his way back and now he’s got another period of time where he’s not going to be able to do anything physically until the league clears him to go through cardiac testing. However long that takes.’’