Four NBA teams are under investigation for violating tampering rules during the 2021 Free Agency period that opened up last week. The New Orleans Pelicans and Chicago Bulls exchanged guard Lonzo Ball, the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat Kyle Lowry, both on sign-and-trade deals. Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN are reporting that both exchanges are drawing official scrutiny.
The free agent negotiation period opened up at 6:00 PM, Eastern time on Monday, August 2nd. On August 1st, Wojnarowski was already tweeting about Miami targeting the Toronto guard.
As the Miami Heat create salary cap space, Toronto free agent guard Kyle Lowry remains a firm target in free agency, sources tell ESPN. Miami has more levers to pull to create space to sign Lowry outright -- or can still endeavor to work a sign-and-trade with the Raptors.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 1, 2021
Before the deadline arrived, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports was on TV saying that Lowry to Miami was a done deal.
Wojnarowski confirmed this, and Lowry’s own agency appeared to as well.
Kyle Lowry has agreed to a three-year deal for approximately $90M with the Miami Heat, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/UqxbWFY6ER— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 2, 2021
Meanwhile Shams Charania of The Athletic cited Rich Paul, CEO of Klutch Sports—Ball’s representative—when announcing that Ball was headed to the Bulls in the first minutes of free agency.
Klutch sent out their own congratulatory tweet, but it came hours after the opening had passed.
It’s likely that the timing of the announcements is not the only issue at hand. Every trade requires agreement from the two teams participating. Sign-and-trade maneuvers require that, plus the assent of the player and his agent. The idea that all parties could review and sign off on terms in minutes, or even hours, stretches credulity.
As Wojnarowski and Shelburne report, the NBA raised maximum fines for tampering to $10 million in 2019, also allowing for the following possibilities:
...suspending team executives, forfeiting draft picks and even the voiding of contracts. Team executives can also have their communications — such as telephone records, texts and emails — randomly audited.
Watch for developments in the coming days.