When Arturas Karnisovas was asked on Monday about the Chicago Bulls tampering investigation, he couldn’t stop talking.
“Well, thank you for your question, but I will not be able to comment on that.”
Wait … that was it? Are you sure there wasn’t more?
Already a man of few words, I don’t think anyone was surprised to see the Bulls front office leader completely shut down any commentary about the ongoing investigation. He is someone who has kept every move and discussion that happened behind the curtain firmly in place. What happens in Karniovas’ office, stays in Karnisovas’ office.
But as quiet as he wants to be on the matter, the penalty could still be plenty loud. Two years ago, the league office updated the severity of its tampering penalities. Front offices can now be fined up to $10 million, executives can face suspensions, and draft picks can be stripped away. The voiding of any contract can also take place, but that has pretty obviously been taken off the table, as Ball is comfortably at training camp in the wake of an October 20th start date.
Which penalty or penalities the Bulls will face is hard to say. What exactly did the league find? How much can the prior trade deadline discussions between the Bulls and Pelicans lighten the load? Does the league want to use this as an opportunity to make a massive example out of Chicago? It’s been almost two months without a result … is that good or bad? All we know is that we can’t rule anything out right now, especially the snatching of significant draft compensation.
“While it’s unclear what Chicago’s punishment will be, there’s a belief in some NBA circles that the Bulls could be docked a first-round draft pick,” wrote 670 The Score’s Cody Westerlund.
As a team that gave up three first-round picks over the last year in exchange for two veteran players in Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan, losing another would not be ideal. The Lonzo Ball signing was also viewed around the league as one of the better deals of the summer. Add a first-round pick casualty into the mix, and the perception of that signing by this front office takes a hit (which, of course, isn’t to say it should not have been done).
Fortunately, Chicago may have seen this coming, which is why Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley held off on a Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade until their demands of a first-round pick were met. Does this make up entirely for a penalty of this magnitude? Absolutely not, particularly because this first is lottery-protected, but a draft pick is a draft pick.
No matter how we look at it, this young front office dropped the ball on this one. It might not be something we think much about if all goes well with this roster, but if the penalty is severe and the on-court product underwhelms, there is no question this will feel like a more significant blemish on the front office’s resume.