NBA PM: Why Lakers Won’t Amnesty Kobe Bryant
Lorne Jackson - VIDEO OF THE DAY
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Why the Lakers Won’t Amnesty Kobe Bryant
The untimely demise of the Los Angeles Lakers has some crazy stories circulating these days. The team that looked built to win 70+ games wound up struggling to make the playoffs and were unceremoniously dismissed at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. It’s natural for fans and media alike to start picking things apart and jumping to conclusions, both founded and unfounded.
One of the more ludicrous ideas that has been floated is the potential use of the amnesty clause to take Kobe Bryant’s roughly $30.5 million off the books. It might sound like a good idea at first, but the reality is that amnestying Kobe would not truly benefit the Lakers at all, aside from saving them some money, which is almost never a consideration for the team.
Let’s break it down. If the Lakers amnesty Kobe and sign Dwight Howard to a maximum deal, as they are most certainly hoping to do, they will still be right at the salary cap threshold, meaning they wouldn’t be able to sign any free agents beyond the use of their exceptions. So forget about adding Monta Ellis or Josh Smith, both of whom are good friends of Dwight’s, because neither is going to give the Lakers that kind of discount. In fact, if the Lakers were to amnesty Kobe they would be much worse off because they would have to replace Kobe using an exception, and there’s no chance they would wind up with an impact player worthy of the position.
It’s even more complicated than that for the Lakers, who despite their willingness to spend still have to adhere to NBA rules governing the signing of players. No team can sign a player for an amount that puts them over the cap, and they can’t take part in a sign-and-trade that would put them over, either. There’s also little chance the Lakers will be willing to go into the luxury tax penalty zone, which kicks in once a team is four million over the luxury tax threshold. Going over the so-called “apron” would mean the Lakers lost the ability to add players using the Bi-Annual Exception, their Mid-Level Exception shrinks, they would not be able to receive a player via sign-and-trade and they lose their share of the league-wide tax fund (for more, read here!). As willing as the Lakers are to spend, they are simply not going to operate above the luxury tax threshold. No team can afford to do that.
In truth, the only way it makes sense for the Lakers to amnesty Kobe is if Howard decides to go elsewhere and the team is forced into early rebuilding. Given that Howard seems likely to re-sign with LA, don’t expect to see the world’s most popular basketball player wearing any other jersey next season. Even if he were unable to play, and by all indications he will be ready either to start next season or fairly early into it, Kobe would earn the Lakers more money in jersey and souvenir sales than he will cost them.
It’s also important to remember the Lakers’ long-term plan, which is to sign LeBron James in 2014. As things stand, both Bryant and All-Star power forward Pau Gasol will come off the books before LeBron’s ETO kicks in after the 2013-14 season. All indications are that LeBron loves Miami and plans to make his home there for quite some time, but that won’t stop the Lakers from pulling out all of the stops to try and lure him away. Pairing him with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, who is the only current Laker who will still be on the books in three years, might be enough to give LeBron pause.
As of this writing, Bryant is working the media with his pleas for the Lakers to keep this team together. It takes time to build a winner, as the Miami HEAT demonstrated in their first season together. Injuries played a key role in the Lakers’ struggles, as did the early coaching and philosophy change. If they could get healthy over the summer, have a full training camp together, and attack next season with fresh legs and a collective identity, there’s no reason to believe the Lakers couldn’t contend next season. At the very least it’s a better plan than amnestying Kobe Bryant, which would set the franchise back significantly and likely make them a lottery team next season, Dwight Howard or no Dwight Howard.
HOOPSWORLD’s Eric Pincus contributed to this report.
The Charlotte Bobcats’ Coaching Challenge
Hiring a head coach in the NBA isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to find someone who fits your team’s culture, or who is strong enough to remake the culture in his own image. Young teams need a teacher, someone who will invest in the players as people as well as players. More veteran teams need someone who can find a balance and blend talent while also commanding their respect. The Detroit Pistons are so concerned about getting it right that they hired none other than Phil Jackson as an adviser to the process, also kicking Joe Dumars’ career dissipation light up to red. Meanwhile, the Charlotte Bobcats seem to like the approach of interviewing absolutely everyone who is willing to take the call.
Various news sources have identified four current NBA assistants, plus Shelby native Alvin Gentry, who has been a head coach with four NBA teams.
The assistants (in alphabetical order): Jeff Hornacek (Utah Jazz), Kelvin Sampson (Houston Rockets), Nate Tibbetts (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Elston Turner (most recently with the Phoenix Suns).
Hornacek has also been tied to the Philadelphia 76ers’ opening and Sampson to the Milwaukee Bucks opening. Hornacek played for the 76ers and Sampson was a Bucks assistant under Scott Skiles.
There are some solid names on that list. First, Alvin Gentry is a proven winner, though not quite a champion. He worked well in a veteran environment that included Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix before finally taking the fall for that team’s complete demolition this season. There are questions about how well Gentry might work with young players, and that will be of high importance for anyone taking on the Bobcats’ challenge.
Next you have Elston Turner, who is a long-time Rick Adelman assistant from his days as head coach of both the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets, and would have likely been an Adelman assistant in Minnesota had he not taken the Phoenix job while Adelman was contemplating permanent retirement. Turner brings a wealth of experience, both working with veteran playoff teams and helping to develop and utilize young talent.
Jeff Hornacek is mostly known for his playing days, when he was a great three-point shooter and loved to wave to his kids while at the free throw line. Kelvin Sampson’s name has been kicked around a great deal in recent years, and his time with the overachieving Rockets makes him even more of a person of interest to teams looking for a head coach. Nate Tibbetts is no doubt under consideration because of his success in the D-League, where he had to develop young talent but also think on the fly with ever-changing D-League rosters.
Again, it’s a solid list that the Bobcats have compiled so far, and any of those candidates would be capable head coaches. The problem is, what the Bobcats need is not a “capable” head coach, they need someone to come in and shake things up. They need a dynamic personality to win over veterans like Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions (maybe even Tyrus Thomas!), but also to establish an identity for the plethora of young players like Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Bobcats have been a team without an identity for far too long, and the next head coach will have to be the one to finally start mapping that out.
This is not a job for the faint of heart, as we’ve seen both Paul Silas and Mike Dunlap have unpleasant confrontations with players under their watch. There’s going to need to be a certain amount of tough love involved, but also an ability to translate potential into wins. There won’t be a savior player arriving this summer either, as what could be the top overall pick in the draft is not expected to land a franchise player in Charlotte. The team does have a significant amount of cap space, perhaps as much as $30 million to spend, so the next head coach is also going to have to be someone who can convince key free agents that things are about to turn around in Charlotte.
As of today, there does not appear to be a head coach on the Bobcats’ list that matches the above criteria. Until they land a head coach who has respect around the league and is also a strong balance of teacher and leader, the Bobcats are going to continue to wander aimlessly in the wilderness known as the NBA lottery.
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