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Sounds Like the Bulls May Have Been Bracing for a Much Harsher Penalty in the Lonzo Ball Investigation

Chicago Bulls

The NBA gave the Chicago Bulls an early Christmas present on Wednesday afternoon, when they announced the findings of the Lonzo Ball free-agent signing investigation.

Chicago was penalized just one future second-round pick for violating league rule in regards to the timing of their discussions with Ball’s camp this summer. And while that may not sound like a gift worth cherishing, many believed the team would see a far harsher penalty.

Remember, the NBA updated the penalty for tampering violations a couple of years back, deciding that teams could be penalized up to $10 million, executives could be suspended, first-round picks could be stripped, and contracts could even be void. No one ever truly expected the league to take Ball out of Chicago, but everything else did feel on the table. In fact, the rumblings around the potential loss of a first-round pick were quite prevalent, and I expected at least some kind of fine to end up on Jerry Reinsdorf’s desk. And it turns out Arturas Karnisovas and Co. may have expected something similar.

According to NBA Insider Marc Stein, there was plenty of talk around the league that the Bulls front office had prepared itself for a much harder slap on the wrist.

“There had been some chatter in league circles in recent weeks that the Bulls were indeed bracing for something significant — perhaps even a suspension for lead executive Artūras Karnišovas — for all the reasons we laid out here in August, but that struck me as unlikely,” Stein wrote in his latest Newsletter. “The belief here all along has been that the Bulls and the Heat would be hit harder than the Milwaukee Bucks were in the Bogdan Bogdanović case … just not losing-a-first hard.”

Interesting. Clearly, the front office knew some sort of penalty was coming their way, and the fact they ended up with the player on their roster (unlike what we saw last year with the Milwaukee Bucks) had to have them thinking something more drastic was coming.

I have to wonder if this fear at all played a role in Karnisovas’ hard-headedness in the Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade situation. Remember, Markkanen was one of the last free agents to find a new home, and this could have been because Karnisovas wanted to ensure he received a first-round pick in return. Not only did he end up receiving just that from Portland (a lottery-protected first, to be specific), but he also grabbed a 2023 second-rounder from the Cavaliers (one they acquired from the Denver Nuggets and is protected up until pick No. 47, per Spotrac).

Regardless, the investigation is over and the Bulls penalty is what it is. I know a second-round pick can always be a good trade-filler, but it’s also something that can pretty easily be snatched on draft night with a stack of cash. So … yeah … I’m feeling pretty damn good about how everything ended up, and I think it’s time I let out one last sigh of relief.

*major happy sigh*

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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.