NBA AM: No Trades Coming For Lakers
Kupchak Defends His Lakers: If you are a Laker fan and expecting a major trade or change, you might want to put that concept in your pocket. LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was clear this week that his team is not making any changes and that includes head coach Mike D’Antoni, despite their dismal start to the season.
“I think there’s still time, but I wouldn’t say there’s plenty of time,” Kupchak said to Newsday’s Steve Marcus. “I don’t think anybody anticipated that we’d be in late January [four] games under .500. I don’t think anybody expected for us to have the record today that we do.”
There have been some suggestions that the Lakers might look to part ways with the recently hired D’Antoni, especially if the team fails to string together enough games to make the post-season.
“We’re very happy with Mike D’Antoni,” Kupchak said. “I think when he took the job I think he thought Nash [fractured left leg] might be out a week or two. Not two months. Getting everybody on the same page took a little longer than expected. Not to say it’s been smooth sailing, that’s for sure.”
There has also been growing speculation that with Laker center Dwight Howard’s pending free agency the Lakers might blink and pull off a deal rather than risk losing Howard for no return.
“We will not make a trade. We will not trade Dwight Howard,” said Kupchak. “We have no intention of making a trade. It’s unlikely that we’ll make any trade with any of our principal players. To make another change at this time of the year being behind the eight-ball like we are, I think that would just make it more difficult. The talent is there. We have to find our way.”
Age of the roster continues to be a criticism of the Lakers and while Kupchak refused to accept excuses for the hoo-hum Lakers’ season, he said he believed in the experience of his team more so than its age.
“I put this team together with Jim Buss. We don’t think they’re too old,” explained Kupchak. “We have great experience. When I look at our team and I make a list of things that may contribute to our record to date, age is not one of them. I think seven or eight games from now we’ll have more answers. We’re trying to get into the playoffs and make a run.”
The Lakers are 22-26 on the season with 34 games left to play. The eight seeded Houston Rockets have a (.531) record, meaning 44 wins looks to be the magic number to get to the eighth seed. The Lakers would need to go 22-12 (.647) for the balance of the season to reach that mark.
The Lakers currently have a payroll in excess of $99.8 million and will be the NBA’s largest luxury tax payer without a cost-cutting trade. The Lakers have more than $74 million in salary commitments next season, which does not include a new contract for Howard or Earl Clark, who has emerged as a starter and will also be a free agent.
League sources project that the 2013-14 salary cap and luxury tax will increase ever so slightly to roughly $59 million as a salary cap and $71-$72 million as a luxury tax ceiling.
The Lakers do have some options next summer to reduce costs as they hold qualifying offers on Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Robert Sacre. The Lakers also have a team options on shooting guard Jodie Meeks, while point guard Chris Duhon only has $1.5 million of his contract guaranteed. In total those player represent $8.807 million in removable costs for the Lakers.
On the flip side, the Lakers do have guaranteed dollars committed to Kobe Bryant ($30.453 million), Pau Gasol ($19.285 million), Nash ($9.300 million), Metta World Peace ($7.727 million), Steve Blake ($4.00 million) and Jordan Hill ($3.563 million) for a total of $74.32 million.
The Lakers’ stance in the trade market has basically been the same all season – the best team they can assemble in trade or transaction is the team they have and it seems that’s what Kupchak is saying to the press.
We will see if that changes in the 16 days remaining before the 2013 NBA Trade Deadline.
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Cross Kevin Garnett Off The List: There have been reports this week suggesting that the Boston Celtics and LA Clippers were engaged in talks that would send forward Kevin Garnett to the Clips in exchange for guard Eric Bledsoe and small forward Caron Butler.
Since that story hit earlier in the week both sides of the scenario have gone out of their way to deny involvement in such talks. However, whenever a name like Garnett gets attached to something its not going to go away easily.
Here is what’s being said from both sides.
Clippers’ sources profess that everyone in the organization is thrilled with how things are working and that the idea of a change, even a minor one, is not on the table. The Clippers have a chemistry that’s working and trying force a new piece into the equation isn’t on the table.
The Clippers also have concerns about dealing arguably their best option at backup point guard with the specter of Chris Paul’s free agency, but more importantly Paul’s durability. With Bledsoe carrying the load so effectively, there is no urgency to return Paul to the lineup and more important Bledsoe allows for fewer minutes for Paul, which the Clips believe will be invaluable come playoff time.
On the Celtics’ side, sources say Danny Ainge and his front office have kicked the tires on a number of things, but trading Garnett has never been one they have seriously considered.
Garnett does have a no-trade provision in his contract and has made it clear he would only entertain waiving it if teammate Paul Pierce were traded, if Doc Rivers was fired or if the deal was to an LA team, so at least there is a window.
Sources point to Garnett’s undying loyalty to Rivers and Pierce as key reasons he would block a trade,and with the Celtics riding a four-game winning streak its highly unlikely Garnett approves a move.
There are 16 days until the trade deadline, so things can always change, but the stance from both Boston and the Clippers is that Bledsoe isn’t going anywhere until Paul is re-signed and that Garnett doesn’t want out of Boston. Neither of those things seem to be changing inside the next two weeks.
The Seattle/Sacramento Situation: Over the next few weeks more and more talk about the future of the Kings in Sacramento is going to dominate the NBA landscape, especially after the NBA trade deadline passes.
Sources close to this process say that while the Maloof family, who owns the majority of the Kings, has made their deal with a group intent on moving the team to Seattle next season, there still remains a wrinkle powered more by the NBA than by anything between the Maloofs and their partners.
There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not minority owners in the Kings have the ability to block a potential sale and sources close to the process say that while it could end up in court, it’s unlikely that the legal route is going to stop the NBA from approving an eventual deal for Seattle.
What will block a move to Seattle is an ultra-tight, ultra-compelling counter-offer in Sacramento and that appears to be the route the city is taking.
Sources close to this process say that an ownership group comprised of billionaire Ron Burkle and fitness tycoon Mark Mastrov is coming together in combination with several local owners comprising a hefty ownership consortium.
Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has revived a new arena for Sacramento using basically the same framework for financing that the NBA already approved and is prepared to present an alternative to the NBA Board of Governors.
Sources dialed into this situation say a few things will have to happen for Sacramento to have a fighting chance.
- #1, the ownership group will need to be finalized, which it is not at this point but it is expected to be soon.
- #2, the financial offer to buy the team would need to value the Kings at more than $525 million.
Every owner in the league wants to see the Kings sold for the reported $525 valuation Seattle’s group is offering, so a Burkle-Mastrov offer would have to be north of that number.
League sources continue to call the solution to this situation an economic one, saying that it will come down to more than just what the Kings are sold for; a Sacramento counter-offer will also have to include a significant increase in team revenues to offset what’s expected to be a major influx of cash from Seattle. A move back to Seattle is expected to yield a significant TV/radio rights package and lots of new corporate advertisers.
When the NBA was attempting to sell the New Orleans Hornets one of the first items they required from the region was a new hefty TV deal, the same appears to be needed from Sacramento.
League sources say Sacramento’s bid to keep the team is not an empty gesture and that the NBA, namely commissioner David Stern, has been extremely forthcoming in what it would take to get a counter-offer taken seriously and dragging this process into court is not viewed as one of the keys; providing a compelling and economically sound counter-proposal is.
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