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NBA gives Bulls their penalty for early contact in Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade deal

Chicago — The Chicago Bulls were forced to forfeit a second-round draft pick in the 2022 NBA draft after a four-month NBA investigation determined the organization was in violation of league rules in the process of solidifying a sign-and-trade deal for guard Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans.

The investigation began at the start of August before the four-year, $85 million agreement to bring Ball to Chicago was finalized. The league determined the Bulls made contact with Ball prior to the free-agency window opening, which was in violation of league rules. The Miami Heat also forfeited a second-round pick for their involvement in a similar deal to acquire Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors.

The Bulls released a short statement following the announcement from the league.

“The Chicago Bulls cooperated completely with the league in its investigation,” the statement read. “We are glad this process has concluded and look forward to the rest of our season.”

The Heat were less receptive to the decision, releasing a statement that read, “While we disagree, we accept the league’s decision. We are moving on with our season.”

Cooperation might have been key to limiting both teams’ punishment from the league. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the league informed the Bulls and Heat in a memo that their cooperation in the investigation convinced the league not to reach for higher penalties, including $10 million fines and suspensions for top executives.

Tampering refers to contact between free-agent players and NBA teams outside of the free-agency period, which began Aug. 2 this year.

Punishments for tampering charges can be steep, particularly after the league bulked up its enforcement policies in 2019. In the most drastic situation, contracts related to a deal in which tampering was found to occur can be voided.

Ball quickly became a critical piece of the redefined Bulls roster this season. The Bulls sent Garrett Temple, Tomáš Satoranský, a 2024 second-round draft pick and cash to the Pelicans in exchange for the guard.

Averaging 12.5 points and 4.8 assists per game, Ball provides a complementary offensive presence for the star-studded trio of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević, but the guard’s defense is what truly has made a difference for the Bulls.

Paired with Alex Caruso, Ball brings an aggressive energy to the team’s perimeter defense as the duo combines for three steals per game. The guard’s full-court vision helps to fuel the Bulls’ transition offense, which is one of the best in the league.

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