The Bulls jumped out of the gate when the free-agency period got underway Monday, and now the NBA is investigating if they were guilty of a false start.
According to ESPN, the Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade agreement with the Pelicans could have violated the NBA’s tampering rules. The league also is investigating the sign-and-trade deal between the Heat and Raptors that sent Kyle Lowry to Miami.
The NBA has been trying to stamp out tampering, and two years ago, it instituted stiffer penalties for guilty organizations, including a maximum fine of up to $10 million, forfeiture of draft picks or nullification of contracts. If the league wants to turn up the heat on the investigation, it would confiscate the phones of all front-office members believed to be involved.
Tampering was a running joke in the NBA for years because it appeared to be a common practice, but those days are gone. And the Bulls just might find out how serious the league is about persuading teams to follow guidelines.
The Ball deal going down just minutes after the negotiating window opened doesn’t help the Bulls’ case. They had agreed to fully guarantee Tomas Satoransky’s contract 24 hours earlier, then sent a second-round pick, Satoransky and Garrett Temple to the Pelicans for Ball.
The Bucks found out how serious the league was last season, when they were stripped of a 2022 second-round pick after it was discovered they had contacted guard Bogdan Bogdanovic prematurely.
And the outcome of the Bogdanovic saga should make the Bulls, Heat, Pelicans and Raptors uneasy: The deal fell apart, and Bogdanovic ended up with the Hawks.
The Bulls had no comment Saturday.