NBA PM: Will LA Lakers Continue To Spend?
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NBA and its players was supposed to do a number of things. First and foremost, however, it was supposed to level the playing field. It was supposed to change the way business is currently done in the league, with the richest teams generally staying on top, while the smaller markets and poorer teams hang around the middle or bottom feed.
As HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler said recently, the NBA consists of five teams who have legitimate hopes of winning a championship and 25 teams who hope you’ll pay big bucks to watch those five teams crush them.
The new CBA was expected to change that, and perhaps it will. We’ve already seen Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban dismantle his 2011 championship team in favor of a more sustainable long-term winner, and Cuban has been one of the most consistent tax payers in the NBA during his tenure as the Mavs’ owner.
But what about the biggest markets? What about New York, where the Brooklyn Nets are on pace to be the most expensive NBA team in history, and Los Angeles, where the Lakers appear to be willing to spend any amount of money to put themselves in the championship picture?
In case you’re not familiar with the new tax structure, teams that are over the luxury tax threshold will pay a dollar-for-dollar tax in 2012-13, which is the way it was under the previous CBA. Going forward, however, things start to get more punitive for repeat tax offenders. In 2013-14, for example, the new graduated tax kicks in, and the luxury tax threshold is projected to be $73 million. Assuming the Lakers re-sign newly-acquired center Dwight Howard for the $20.5 million max, they’re at $101 million in salary. That would put them on the hook for $76.5 million in tax alone. The following year things get really tough for tax payers, with an additional “repeater” penalty kicking in.
The question becomes whether or not the Lakers, for example, will give in to the way the NBA would like to see things done, or will they simply find new revenue streams and keep doing business as they have. Most teams don’t have that option, but when you’re in one of the world’s largest media markets things are not at all equal. There is, after all, a huge TV deal in place with Time Warner that could pay a significant chunk of any tax the Lakers are libel for. There’s also the additional revenue that comes from winning multiple championships, which the Lakers are hoping to do over the next couple of seasons.
All of that said, don’t expect the Lakers to just keep spending the way they have. In fact, the roster is set right now to prepare for a new NBA economy where ignoring the salary cap and the luxury tax threshold will be entirely too costly.
Before you go out and get your Big Four tattoo featuring Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, consider that the current Lakers roster is very much a short-term, all-in kind of roster. The hope is that they can deliver two more championships for Kobe before they have to start answering tough questions about the roster. As things stand today, the Lakers have only Steve Nash under contract at roughly $9.7 million in 2014. Assuming Dwight is also under contract for that season, how much of a pay cut might Bryant be willing to take to keep the team together?
In light of the Lakers landing both Nash and Howard, plenty of people are asking what, exactly, was gained with the new CBA. If the rich continue to get richer and the rest of the league is lined up as whipping boys, what happened to justify losing 16 games to a lockout last season?
The answer is this: be patient. In two years the tax penalty for repeat offenders will be so stiff that even the Lakers will be forced to think twice about building a team with a $100 million payroll.
The Lakers are just hoping to get two more championships for Kobe before a new NBA economy changes the landscape of the game forever.
Andrew Bogut Gearing Up
The Golden State Warriors are pushing for a playoff spot in 2012-13, and on paper they should be very much in the mix. What’s on paper, however, very much depends on who can stay healthy, and that starts with new center Andrew Bogut. When healthy, Bogut has been one of the best centers in the NBA; unfortunately, Bogut hasn’t appeared in all of an 82-game since his rookie year, and he managed just 12 games last year due to a fractured foot. This time he wants to be 100% at the beginning of the regular season, even if that means sacrificing some training camp time.
“It’s about being smart with my ankle,” Bogut said via a conference call with local media. “There’s no point in trying to get ready for October 1st, when another week could significantly help. I’m trying to get ready for camp, but my main goal is for the first game of the season to be 110 percent.”
Bogut may be a bit ahead of schedule, having already been cleared to run on a treadmill, and his ankle responded well to recent workouts with Warriors head trainer JoHan Wang. Wang traveled to Australia to put in some work with Bogut, who said Wang “pretty much smashed me in the gym.”
No swelling, no soreness . . .great signs for Bogut, who has much to prove this season. If the Warriors are going to make the playoffs they’re going to need Bogut to anchor their defense, control the glass, and provide a great low post scoring threat. Those are all well within his abilities, but he has to stay healthy.
It’s time for Bogut to define his career by his play on the court, rather than the potential he represents while sitting alongside it in streetclothes.
Dwyane Wade Talks Knee, HEAT
Miami HEAT star Dwyane Wade didn’t look quite right as his team made their championship run in June, so it came as no surprise that he underwent knee surgery at the beginning of July to help him prepare to defend his second NBA title.
“The knee is doing good,” Wade said in a recent interview with WQAM in Miami. “I’m feeling well. I am on the 6-8 week plan before I really start getting back to the basketball court, so I am coming up on that soon and I’m excited to just try to get back into the groove before training camp comes.”
The surgery kept Wade out of the Olympics, but he was pulling for his Team USA teammates just as if he were sitting on the bench next to them. In particular he enjoyed watching his Miami teammate help Team USA capture the gold, adding one more honor to LeBron James’ impressive list of accomplishments this year.
“I can believe the year that he has had because this is the player that he is,” said Wade. “This is the player he has always been. Obviously, last year was a tough year, and then in the NBA Finals he took a lot of criticism because we have been accustomed to seeing the way LeBron James plays. He’s responded and I think no one can question his heart, his determination, his focus and his ability to be a great, great player and step up in the big moment. He’s done it, man, and he’s been on a unbelievable run and we would like for that run to continue.”
Wade believes the only thing standing between Miami and another championship is the injury factor.
“Well as long as we are healthy I feel good about things,” Wade said. “We have a very good team and nothing is promised to you, but the biggest thing you concern yourself throughout the year is just giving yourself a chance by being healthy. If we do that, I like our chances.”
Last season was tough for Wade, as he struggled to produce in the manner to which he has become accustomed, but he says the rehab process is not difficult for him.
“This is not my first rodeo when it comes to rehabbing, so I’ve enjoyed it,” Wade said. “We have a great staff to help put the plan together for me and I am excited about getting back to form. Last year was a difficult year for me mentally because of dealing with this knee problem, but I still try to go out and produce and do everything I can and make sure my team wins a championship, so this summer was just about getting away from the game a little bit, but also getting stronger for next season.”
To his credit, Wade never made an issue of his knee, no matter how it hurt.
“That’s not me,” Wade said. “That wouldn’t be me as long as I play this game. We all play with things. We all play with various injuries in every sport. You have to. If you don’t you are not going to get respect from your peers. I would never come out and say, ‘Oh I got this. Woe is me.’ I don’t want that woe me thing to ever be on me and I am always going to go out and give it my all no matter what the problem is. No matter what is going or not going on.”
The good news for Wade and for the HEAT is that more than ever the team has enough depth around him that he shouldn’t have to overtax his knee to help the HEAT repeat as champions. With former all-stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis joining the fray, Wade should be able to play fewer minutes in his quest to help the team get back to the NBA Finals in 2012-13.
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