Tagged: Lakers

The latest Lakers/Celtics/Clippers hoopla around CP3/Dwight/Griffin/KG/Doc, etc.


Holy hell, this sure is some insane chatter going on these days. The inmates are increasingly looking to take over the asylum, aren’t they? Or are they? The media LOVES to talk ENDLESSLY about CP3 wants this, Dwight wants that, etc. etc. But none of us really know what’s going on. Nor should we unless free agency begins and these guys ‘do what’s best for them’ (to paraphrase Dwight).

We’ve all heard the rumors (that’s all they are now) going back and forth of the Clippers and Celtics talking, and the others about Dwight maybe wanting to team up with CP3 on the Clippers. There’s also the chance that IF the Lakers don’t give a FUCK about the Salary Cap they can bring Chris Paul to the Lakers– He and Dwight both love L.A., but Chris isn’t sold on the Clippers and Don Sterling’s firing of VDN and blaming Chris REALLY made Chris upset (supposedly, according to RUMORS).

But let’s also look at some dollars and cents here. You can toss in draft picks, etc. to ‘sweeten’ a deal, but the fact is salaries must match within 125% either way (for a single contract year, beyond that doesn’t matter), salary cap is a bigger issue to consider for some teams than others (and some owners than others, for that matter), as as future plans. Here’s what I can glean so far:


Lakers: Want to win championships, will spend money like water
Clippers: Want to sell tickets to games and merchandise, uber cheap owner
Celtics: Want to win championships, cautious about money generally

So when you think about it that way, when people are saying that Clippers owner Donald Sterling wants to get this player and that I look at them twice and slap them sideways. You all know it comes down to the dollars, and Sterling doesn’t like to open his checkbook that often. He MASSIVELY overpaid DeAndre Jordan, and now no one wants that guys crappy salary. Blake is a dunking machine who plays no defense and has a terrible shot, WITH A MASSIVE CONTRACT, and needs someone to pass to him, AND he’s got knee issues. Last time we saw a guy like that? AMARE STOUDAMIRE! I think that’s a really REALLY bad omen.

With that said, the Lakers want long term stars, and even with Dwight having had a bad year, HE WAS COMING OFF BACK SURGERY, and we had another shitty coaching transition, and the coach didn’t know how to limit player minutes, etc. etc.

But again… back to the dollars and cents. Dwight is a free agent, Chris Paul is a free agent. Everyone else in the mix is on contracts. Dwight and Chris can each get the most money with their current teams (Dwight: Lakers, Chris: Clippers) including a 5th year. SO… if these guys want to play together either they A) go to the other guy’s team, or B) go somewhere else together (Atlanta or Houston?) and sacrifice that 5th year together… that doesn’t sound like ‘doing what’s best for me’ to me, does it? Even if SOMEHOW they convince their teams to do sign and trades, here are what the other possible tradable guys are making next year:

Pau Gasol – $19.3 mil, 1 year left, solid player but expensive
Steve Nash – $9.3 mil, 2 years left, trailing off skillwise big time
Metta World Peace – $7.7 mil (player option), 1 year left, inconsistent and trailing off

DeAndre Jordan – $11.0 mil, 2 years left, massively overpaid for poor production
Blake Griffin – $16.4 mil, 4 years left, explosive dunker, questionable knees and… that’s it
Jamal Crawford – $5.2 mil, 3 years left, solid perimeter scorer, not bad contract
Eric Bledsoe – $2.6 mil, 2 years left, great backup PG, unsure how he’d fare as starter, cheap for 2 years then may command big jump
Caron Butler – $8.0 mil, 1 year left, disappeared in the playoffs, expiring contract

Paul Pierce – $15.3 mil, 1 year left, on the decline but still really good, expiring value
Kevin Garnett – $11.5 mil, 2 years left, has a no trade clause, will ONLY go to L.A. TEAMS, will only leave if Pierce is getting traded
Jeff Green – $8.7 mil, 3 years left (3rd is player option), picked up his play but is fairly expensive vs. his production as a role player
Courtney Lee – $5.2 mil, 3 years left, similar to Green is young and athletic but lengthy contract for uncertainty
Jason Terry – $5.2 mil, 2 years left, not as hot a shooter as his Mavs days, like a better Steve Blake

So there are some big questions being considered, and most don’t have solid answers:

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers

If Dwight said he’s leaving the Lakers, why would the Lakers agree to a sign-and-trade?

The Lakers have hinted to wanting to remain competitive for Summer 2014. What could they get from the Clippers? Blake Griffin would give them something now, but the Amare comparisons do not bode well for them. Cap room might be a greater consideration. Getting Eric Bledsoe would be nice, but the Lakers don’t even know if they’ll be running D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense with the even older Kobe, Pau, and Metta (if they don’t amnesty him first) even if Bledsoe and Griffin are on the team.


If the Clippers/Celtics talks are ‘serious’, how can anything happen without the Clippers shipping out DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, and the Celtics shipping out Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce?

KG has already said he won’t waive his no trade clause unless Pierce is gone, and they market to nab Pierce is not that big right now. So IF the Clippers agreed to take Pierce and KG (instantly making themselves much older), the only way (moneywise) the trade could work, and bring Doc Rivers over in the process, would be to send the Celtics DeAndre (who while young is still pretty useless offensively) AND Blake– the latter whom the Clippers said is ‘untouchable’ for the most part. So what is the point of these talks? The Clippers want to impress CP3 and get him to stay by bringing in Doc Rivers to coach and KG to play PF/C… but they’re not willing to trade Blake Griffin… and the Celtics don’t just want DeAndre Jordan, and while getting Eric Bledsoe could be nice, it doesn’t work moneywise, and he and Rondo would be battling it out for who controls the ball, kinda like Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings did in Milwaukee this past season… Oh and KG WON’T waive his no trade clause unless Pierce is being shipped out…. OH AND YOU NEED TO SEND OUT PIERCE AND KG FOR BLAKE AND DEANDRE FOR THE MONEY TO WORK… AAARRGGHHH…. Don Sterling’s idiocy is off the charts here, and the Celtics’ Danny Ainge is smart enough to think about his team’s long term future by just waiting for KG and Pierce’s contracts to expire after next year (well.. Pierce’s, then KG will WANT to go someplace else is just retire before the 2014-15 season).


How can Chris Paul and Dwight Howard ‘realistically’ end up playing together?

In total truth, both players don’t really ‘owe it’ to their latest teams, the Lakers and Clippers, to get a sign-and-trade done in any way. It would just help out their new teams (assuming they go elsewhere) with more room to bring them in, and sign some fresh blood. With that said, IF one of them wants to stay where they are and bring the other in (Chris on the Clippers, brings on Dwight.. Dwight on the Lakers, brings in Chris) they would either have to hope the ‘winning’ team can put the pressure on for a sign and trade, or be willing to take less money one way or another. Here’s the possibilities I can see being considered:


A) CP3 and Dwight on the Lakers – If Chris wants to be a Laker again (after his 47 mins of it 2 years ago before Stern nixed it) it would first be on the Lakers to go WAYYYYY over the salary cap. This has a slim to none chance of happening. Chris would lose on that 4th year by donning the purple and gold, but more importantly his lets say $19.5 mil salary (up from around $17.8 mil last year) would add to the Lakers’ mix of these guys: Kobe at $30.5 mil, Dwight at $20.5 mil (estimated), Pau at $19.3 mil, Nash at $9.3 mil, Metta (likely) at $7.7 mil… and another few mil for others… but that’s JUST the starting lineup! A sign and trade would help the Lakers, but why would the Clippers do that? The Clippers wouldn’t have any interest in Pau (even if he’s an expiring), or willing to take the elder Nash vs. their more than capable Bledsoe who’s younger, probably better, and definitely cheaper (and Don Sterling LOVES cheap!). IF the Lakers were to say ‘fuck it, let’s burn HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS IN SALARY CAP PENALTIES!!’… then this could happen.


B) CP3 and Dwight on the Clippers – This is being bandied about quite a lot lately. Both guys want to stay in L.A., and play together, and the Clippers might be able to force it to happen. IF Dwight just walked straight over, this would be mega expensive for the Clippers. BOTH Chris and Dwight would need new contracts, and Dwight would definitely not get that 5th year, but it would still be a ton of money. Still… is it worth it to him to lose $30 MILLION to stay in the same town? If so, here’s the cost to the Clippers without a sign a trade: CP3 at $19.5 mil, Dwight at $20.5 mil, Griffin at $16.4 mil, DeAndre at $11.0 mil, next highest would be Caron Butler at $8.0 mil…. Eric Bledsoe at just $2.6 mil is cheap and good, but don’t impact the salary cap. But given Don Sterling’s obsession with saving money why would he break the bank to keep Chris Paul when he can just promote Eric Bledsoe and let Chris Paul walk? He then WOULDN’T have to pay nearly $20 mil to BOTH Paul and Howard… saving $40 mil alone on the contracts, and tens of millions more on salary cap penalties (the team would have to go over to bring in role players). In the new CBA’s world of the NBA teams and pretty much afford 2 big stars, 2 medium stars, and a bunch of role players IF they want to stay under the cap (the Lakers don’t usually care). SO…. that means the only want this Clippers could make this happen is to get the Lakers to agree to a sign and trade for Griffin and another $2 to $4 mil piece. The Lakers would say NO WAY to DeAndre Jordan ($11.0 mil) and Caron Butler ($8.0 mil) for Dwight, so Blake it is… but then that means the only other player that would be ‘sweet’ enough might be Bledsoe… who’s a great, cheap player. Good on that… but the Lakers are still wary of Blake who players no D, has no jump shooting, is injury prone, and would slam any chances of cap space later if he’s supposed to be a franchise player– which everyone says he really isn’t worth being…. So…. the Lakers would probably say no here and opt for the cap room, leaving the Clippers to decide if paying an assload is worth it (they’re not the Lakers, but let’s see if they have the balls to play that very expensive game).


C) CP3 and Dwight on the Rockets – These could be the most likely scenarios if they want to play together. The Rockets are a bit tricky because James Harden is making $13.7 mil next year, and while Lin and Omer Asuk are both making just $5.2 mil in 2013-14, in the final 2014-15 of their contracts it balloons up to $15.9 mil each!! Yikes!! Getting both CP3 and Dwight to come over now means they have to find takers for both Lin and Asuk… and NO ONE wants either of them (especially with such painful blow up contracts!!). So a sign and trade might be next to impossible unless James Harden is part of that deal– ironic considering he was the one lobbying to get Dwight over in Houston. If CP3 and Howard walk over they both lose a 5th year worth $25-$30 mil, and even with the ‘Texas saving of no income tax’ it doesn’t matter too much– players pay taxes based on EVERY GAME IN EVERY STATE THEY PLAY IN. A few more games in your home state really don’t make as big an impact as many think it does.


D) CP3 and Dwight on the Hawks – So then there’s Atlanta; the Hawks have a very unique proposition for both CP3 and Dwight, should they want to come over. Josh Smith is off the books, so even if he suddenly wanted to come back to play with buddy Dwight and new friend Chris Paul, they Hawks would tell him to hold up. Smith made $13.2 mil last year and spent all season making it known he wanted out. If Chris and Dwight took up $40 mil in new contracts, the Hawks might not even want to sign Smith. Also, the ONLY big contract on the team next year is Al Horford at $12 mil. The rest of the team is pretty much empty right now… meaning after Dwight and Chris signed up the Hawks could go shopping for cheap role players to add on. Still, with Dwight at C, Horford at his natural PF, and CP3 at PG you’ve got a solid tandem that would challenge LeBron, Bosh, and Wade in the East next season. Again, BOTH Dwight and Chris would have to be willing to sacrifice that 5th year, but as of right now it’s the most likely scenario for them to play together and NOT seek some crazy sign and trade deal. The only small hitch (other than both guys saying goodbye to a 5th year of $25-$30 mil) is Dwight has for some reason not been a fan of playing in his hometown of Atlanta. He’s never elaborated on it, maybe he’s too close to Orlando, but that’s something there. He’d be on his 3rd team in 3 years, but it would be the price to pay for playing alongside Chris Paul.

So anyway, there’s my breakdown of the latest on the Lakers/Clippers/Celtics/Dwight/CP3/KG/Pierce/Griffin/Doc insanity going on these days. Man, I almost miss the pre-Twitter days where we had to wait entire days or weeks for news! 🙂

Bynum (Not Gasol) Is The Lakers’ Price For Getting Deron Williams AND Saving Millions In The Long Run

The past few days the Lakers have been keeping a pretty low profile, hoping the endless whirlwind of proposed trades big or small will wind down a bit so the team can finally get to business. In the midst of the endless fan debates (‘blow up the team!’, ‘go after Dwight Howard!’, ‘beg Phil Jackson to come back one more time!’) the Buss family and General Manager Mitch Kupchak have probably been looking over the Lakers’ past few years worth of success, heartbreak, and growing finances…. and wondering what to do next. Even I have been tossing trade deal after trade deal onto the table, making cases for ‘smart trades’ that benefit the Lakers’ championship-chasing efforts and finances, and that of their partners. Each deal has it merits and its drawbacks, as well as varying degrees of likeliness given numerous factors including financial flexibility, rapidly expanding player egos, team chemistry, rebuilding phases vs. win-now modes, etc.

Listening to the Kamenetzky Brothers’ Land O’ Lakers podcast this past weekend I came across a developing rumor that not only made sense, it seemed to almost make too much good sense for both teams involved. The proposed trade idea involved the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets each swapping an all-star and solid team player… each swapping a center and a point guard… and each doing so while preventing any key drop off in big name talent while addressing team needs. The Lakers would receive Deron Williams and Brook Lopez from the Nets, while the Nets would get Andrew Bynum and Ramon Sessions from the Lakers. That’s right, Pau Gasol is NOT the Lakers player being sent packing. Despite the increasing trade talks supposedly involving the Spaniard (and the Lakers exercising their $16.1 million 2012-13 option on Bynum) it’s well known that Bynum is the more desirable target for other teams, and if the Lakers are willing to put him on the trading block they can net a much better return.

One major caveat to note, however, is that much of this deal happening depends on several IFs:

  • IF Deron Williams demands to go to the Lakers, thus forcing the Nets to attempt a sign-and-trade
  • IF Brook Lopez recovered enough from his broken foot for the Lakers to take a chance on him
  • IF Andrew Bynum has worn out his welcome with the Buss family, yet still gets Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov excited about having him as the new Brooklyn star
  • IF Ramon Sessions either exercises his Lakers’ contract $4.5 million player option (making him tradable) or re-signs with the Lakers for no more than about $5.5 million next year (much higher complicates the possibility of the trade)

Should all the stars align and all 4 of the IFs become certainties then this almost too-good-to-be-true trade could go down. But first things first. Before we get to the financial ramifications for the Lakers let’s take a quick look at the statistics and chemistry factor, starting with the big men in the deal:

The 2011-12 season was a rough one for Brook Lopez, and mostly quite the opposite for Andrew Bynum. While Lopez was on track for a promising season before breaking his foot (and most certainly killing the Nets chances to swap him and other pieces to assemble a Dwight Howard-Deron Williams super duo), Bynum was having a breakout season with nearly all career-high stats and playing in every game this season. In a Bynum-for-Lopez trade the Nets initially seem to be getting the better end of the deal. Bynum is arguably the best or 2nd best center in the league (behind, ahead of, or tied with Dwight Howard depending on the NBA fan) who’s finally come into his own after 7 years of developing ‘promise’. He’s a better defensive presence than Brook Lopez, generally stronger and quicker, and though in the league a bit longer is roughly half a year younger too. Drew’s increasingly frequent ‘immaturity’ issues are leading to an ever-growing call to ship him out by the Laker faithful… calls that Jim Buss have long ignored given his growing dominance and superstar moments. But those moments of personal frustration and lackadaisical attitude are growing too (from a ‘what the hell?’ 3-pointer to avoiding the team huddle, from ‘getting my Zen on’ to ‘I’ll play anywhere’), making the primary target of trade rumors Pau Gasol seem like the more dedicated Laker teammate with outrageously greater professionalism.

But that’s not to sell the Lakers short with Lopez. The Nets’ current center anchors the paint well, has better scoring averages than Bynum (much of which likely outstrips Bynum because Drew shares the middle with Pau Gasol), and comparable careers rebounds, blocks, and efficiency ratings. Brook has also been in the league for fewer years, meaning he’s had the benefit of the college team ‘education’, has less wear and tear on his body, and will likely continue to grow into a better player… all for MUCH less than Bynum earns annually. Though Lopez’s potential probably has a lower ceiling than Bynum he would still continue to flourish with the right team-oriented setting where he wouldn’t be the star, could play in tandem with another solid big (the Lakers’ Pau Gasol and/or Jordan Hill), and even at contract time would still command less than Drew… while still being on the list of the top 5 centers in the NBA. Brook also carries a more humble attitude than Bynum, something that would be incredible valuable on a star-studded Laker team led unquestionably by Kobe Bryant and Deron Williams. Though still quite young, Lopez’s ‘team first’ personality lends to a less volatile player who would compliment veteran big man Pau and defer to star guards Bryant and Williams, while still working hard to contribute whatever is asked of him.

When looking at the point guards involved there are significantly different factors to consider, but ones that ultimately serve the needs and resolve the issues of both the Lakers and the Nets:

Deron Williams is clearly the star player upon which much of this deal rests, and his recent career exploits only highlight that fact. Over the past few years Williams has contended with many top tier point guards for the title of ‘best in the league’, including Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, and Steve Nash. A younger class of players like Kyrie Irving and John Wall have years to go to achieve the steller level of play Williams puts in night in-night out, making him a highly coveted asset for almost any team this summer. Deron has solid strength and scoring ability to compliment his exceptional court vision, dishing the rock, and leadership skills… elements that would surely make him the best point guard the Lakers have had since Magic Johnson. With Phil Jackson & the Triangle Offense retired and Mike Brown in dire need of more ‘pure’ point guard to facilitate his offense Williams would certainly be another step up from the decent Ramon Sessions, who did his best to help the Lakers this past year but too often deferred to Kobe Bryant. Deron Williams, meanwhile, has a similar team-leader and ‘will to win’ attitude as Bryant, can take some of the scoring load off of the Laker Legend (especially as Kobe is nearing the end of his playing days), and still coordinate a flowing offense that involves getting tons of assists to the team’s (proposed) 7-foot duo of Pau Gasol and Brook Lopez. Deron saw his scoring outpace his career average last season while his assists fell before their career averages (the consequence of a less-than-capable Nets team), trends that should reverse themselves once he’s wearing the purple and gold.

From the perspective of the Brooklyn Nets, getting Ramon Sessions in return doesn’t seem to be as fair a trade value as they would hope for. With Deron Williams sending pretty clear smoke signals that he’s itching to ditch the Nets, nabbing Sessions in a trade actually is not a bad deal all things considered. Although Ramon matches or falls below Deron in pretty much every statistical category he is still a hardworking, upper-middle tier NBA guard. In 2011-12, his mid-season trade from the Cavaliers to the Lakers boosted him from a bench role to a starting one, gave him an entirely new playbook to grasp, and transitioned him from playing with a mix of role players to hustling hard with stars like Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol. The past season was also Ramon Sessions’ first in the playoffs (a daunting stage for any young player) and he managed to contribute quite well before the Lakers were outplayed by the Oklahoma City Thunder. While he has nowhere near the player potential ceiling as Williams does, Ramon’s past year playing with Bynum and the Lakers would actually position him to be an excellent play initiator alongside inside big Andrew Bynum and perimeter threat/floor speedster MarShon Brooks in Nets’ Coach Avery Johnson’s attack offense. The Nets might feel that they’ve got their backs against the wall with Williams wanting out, but getting Sessions in return with Bynum makes for a smart haul without losing much of a step.

Having explored the pros and cons of each player involved in the trade proposal, now we can review the nitty gritty financial outlook for the Lakers (the Nets can plan out their own future without my insight, haha). There is a whole other set of short and long-term questions the Lakers need to consider, but none greater than ‘how can we contend for a championship now AND cut our financial tax burdens over the next few years?’… A near impossible task given the more stringent restrictions of the updated collective bargaining agreement:

As noted in my previous posts (exploring trades for Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and other NBA stars) the next few years are going to be increasingly financially restrictive for all of the NBA’s teams. The 2012-13 season is the last ‘$1 for $1’ luxury tax year, with new incremental penalty increases being instituted for the 2013-14 season. As if that isn’t enough, a ‘repeater’ tax starts up during the 2014-15 season which adds even MORE tax penalties for teams over the luxury tax in back-to-back years. When looking at the Lakers’ fiscal outlook, the next two years are not going to be pleasant. Whether a trade for Deron Williams and Brook Lopez happens or not, the team is going to feel the pain of the taxman, but we’re going to explore the trade ‘as fact’ for the sake of the analysis.

Kobe Bryant’s salary is going to balloon to $27.8 and $30.4 million over the next two years, which when bringing back Deron Williams for Andrew Bynum doesn’t seem to bode well for ‘sensible’ financial planning. Assuming Pau Gasol remains on the team (if no other team’s offer is good enough and the Lakers want to maintain a ‘twin towers’ tandem of Gasol and Lopez) his bloated salary also cuts deep. Deron will no doubt receive a much deserved salary bump, with maximum 7.5% annual increases (possible from a sign-and-trade from his ‘current’ team the Nets packaged over to his ‘new’ team the Lakers) getting him north of $20 million a year by 2014-15. Brook Lopez will come over on a cheap contract due to expire at the end of next season. Even if the Lakers can negotiate a ‘smart’ $7.5 million salary with no more than 6.0% annual raises for Lopez, that leaves the team with little to no wiggle room for rounding out with role players (not to mention the $13.6 and $11.0 million on the books for other players currently on the roster for 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively)… Oh and the Lakers also owe Metta World Peace another $15 million for the next two years too, and NO ONE will trade for him despite his greatly improved play in the 2nd half of last season. So other than digging deep to find some cheap ‘gold nugget’ contract players to bolster the bench, the Lakers would be looking at big financial obligations and tax penalties for two more years.

After 2013-14 is a whole other story. Come the beginning of the 2014-15 season the Lakers could be poised to clear out three players with some of the heaviest contracts (and possibly extend the first two at severely discounted rates); Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace.

As a living Laker Legend and the only player with a personal ‘no trade’ clause in his contract, Kobe Bryant will most certainly wear the purple and gold for the next two years unless he says otherwise. By 2014-15, however, Kobe will have played a full 18 years in the league, and despite his numerous championships, records, and immortal moments the Black Mamba will either have to ride into the sunset or take a major pay-cut to get two more years under his belt (perhaps to finish a full 20 seasons?). $5 million per year for 2 more years is a wholly-optimistic estimate, I know, but given the Lakers’ need to move on it would be a sensible self-imposed financial restriction they would have to hold to despite their great affinity for Kobe Bryant.

Pau Gasol (assuming he isn’t traded) is another Laker title contributor that could potentially be up for a ‘$5 million per year for 2 more years’ contract offer in 2014-15, should the Lakers be so kind. No one doubts his amazing finesse, high basketball IQ, and team-oriented playmaking which contributed to 2 titles and 3 Finals appearances (thus far), but the last two years of ‘running out of gas’ in the playoffs have made him increasingly expendable to the team. The need to push back against the luxury cap outweighs Pau’s recent contributions, and if he compliments Brook Lopez well (and mentors him exceptionally well in the process) he could morph into an aging ‘Kareem-like’ player worthy of possibly two more, cheaper years past his current contract (if there is spending room available after other role player/bench signings).

Despite all the ‘out of nowhere’ miracle shots, defensive doggedness, and improved versatility of Metta World Peace (the former Ron Artest) his time with the Lakers will surely be up at the end of his contract. MWP has given all of himself and more to the franchise but his increasing age and declining foot speed are making it harder and harder to justify his over $7 million a year contract. Even if he was willing to take the $1.2 million veteran’s minimum in 2014-15 the money spent on World Peace’s contract could be better spent elsewhere (or simply saved against biggest tax penalties), making it possible the Lakers consider using their one-time amnesty provision on him either before or after the 2012-13 season (depending on if the Deron Williams/Brook Lopez trade occurs). If Metta plays out his contract with the Lakers he will be 34 years old when it ends, a cagey veteran likely still able to contribute to a youth laden team. More than likely he won’t be brought back and can either look to move on or retire.

Should the three aforementioned player contract situations play out well the Lakers are looking to have some favorable financial flexibility heading their way by the 2014-15 season. Over the next two seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16) the team can spend around $28 million per year on filling out the rest of the roster, averaging between $3 million and $5 million for a variety of rookies, solid role players, and experienced veterans chasing their last hope for a ring. All this can be done while avoiding the millions of dollars in luxury and repeater taxes if Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace’s contract situations are handled properly. Futhermore, the team continues to have a star in Deron Williams and possible 2nd tier star in Brook Lopez, while always keeping an eye out for breakout talent along the way.

While this simple yet impactful trade effectively shuts the door on ‘The Dwight Howard Sweepstakes’, given the endless drama surrounding the Orlando Magic and their star center last season the headache might not be work the risk. The $109.1 and $175.7 (!!!) million in salary and luxury taxes to be paid in 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively will hurt immensely, but the Lakers can balance those out against complete lack of penalties over the following 3 seasons (leading to effectively pay out approximately just $20.0 million in taxes each of the next 5 years), retaining star talent in Deron Williams & Brook Lopez and (for a short while longer) Kobe Bryant & Pau Gasol, and remaining a championship contending team all throughout. The 4 major ‘IFs’ need to be resolved first, but should the stars align it could mean big things for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets over the next half-decade.

The Many Trade Scenarios For Lakers’ Pau Gasol

Welcome back to the ‘Let’s Fix The Lakers’ series of posts. I was listening to Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report today and he and Joe House had some interesting discussion points:

The Lakers and Heat should swap Pau Gasol for Chris Bosh. The trade (costing a bit more for the Heat in salary) would make sense for both team, and be insanely helpful. Pau plays well on the low block inside (where Bynum was clogging it up) and the Heat need that inside presence. Meanwhile, the Lakers need to let Bynum kill the inside while having their PF play as a more 10-15 ft. shooter type (like Bosh is) and with some great athleticism (ditto). Billy Witz of FoxSports.com summed it up nicely (http://bit.ly/LA2z4v):

Sending Gasol to Miami for Chris Bosh might just be the missing piece for both franchises. The salaries are a close enough match to make it work: Gasol has two years and $38.2 million left on his contract; Bosh has four years (the last two are player options) and $78 million on his. And neither owner, the Heat’s Micky Arison nor the Lakers’ Jerry Buss, is afraid to go all in.

If the aforementioned trade went down this would still work great if the Lakers then went after a Bynum-for-Howard trade. Dwight would kill on the inside, Bosh would terrorize one mid-range zone, while Kobe would get the other.

While the idea doesn’t fully address the Lakers’ point guard concerns, Simmons also mentioned Nash would likely go to either the Lakers or the Heat next year. However, IF Phil Jackson would take the Heat coaching job (a chance to coach LeBron AND Wade? Hmmm…) then having Nash there would just make him a spot-up shooter. On the Lakers he could help direct the offense, teach Ramon Sessions (if we still have him) how to be a more elite PG, and either start or come off the bench for some instant offense. Neither team would have big spending room left, but at this point in his career if Nash wishes to win a title more than net a big contract that shouldn’t be a big problem.

However, if both the Pau-for-Bosh and Bynum-for-Dwight moves went down then we would have no chance at Deron Williams. Already the Nets aren’t too hot on Pau, but if Deron clearly stated he wanted to go to the Lakers, then getting Pau would really be one of the best bets for the Nets. A Pau and MarShon Brooks combo would be quite nice, (Gerald Wallace helps too) and they could mine the free agent pool for another decent player to insert into the group.

In the aftermath of the Lakers’ 2nd year in a row second-round exit it’s looking like there may be more trade options for Pau than originally thought. Some will help with the point guard situation (if the Lakers want a more elite player than Ramon Sessions, or he turns down his team option and goes someplace else) while others will close the door on it. Thus far here are what seem like the best bets (excluding draft picks, other players, and cash considerations which would be needed for most any trades to work):

  • Pau to the Nets for Deron Williams (solves star PG problem)
  • Pau to the Heat for Chris Bosh (solves mid-post/elbow PF issue with dominant big in Bynum/Howard)
  • Pau to the Rockets for Luis Scola & Kyle Lowry (replaces with quality PF and budding star PG)
  • Pau to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love (provides a younger, increasingly skilled star PF)
  • Pau to the Bulls for Carlos Boozer & C.J. Watson (Derrick Rose’s ACL tear just made keeping Watson essential to the Bulls)

It’s going to be quite a busy summer for the Lakers, primarily concerning Pau Gasol. While the Bynum situation is more black and white (a straight trade for Dwight Howard or just keep Bynum and extend him), the Gasol dilemma has many avenues to be explored before any major decisions are made.

Lakers Can Get Kobe, Dwight, & Deron Together IF They’re Willing To Pay The Price

This morning writer Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated reported that the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic would do well to swap their star centers, and that Brooklyn Nets star point guard Deron Williams was allegedly increasingly interested in a possible trade to the Lakers (http://bit.ly/KzmkVJ). This got me thinking again about more Laker business transactions, and how it could possibly come together for a revamped championship-primed Laker team, and one prepared for a post-Kobe Bryant era.

IF Deron had the balls to tell the Nets he’s out then this can go down. However, there are more moving gears in place. The Magic and Lakers need to talk and get the Bynum-for-Howard deal done FIRST. This would close the door on the Nets possibly even asking for Bynum if they were willing to ship Deron out. Then the Nets would then have to agree to a sign-and-trade with the Lakers, though Gasol (and filler?) might be the only tradeable pieces. This might screw the Nets pretty bad, but it’s either they land Gasol as their marquee player (not great since the last time he was the ‘star’ on a team it was Memphis and he didn’t embrace the role) or just lose D-Will for nothing.

The big problem for the Lakers would (once again) be paying 3 stars big money and not having enough room to fill out the bench. That’s why much of this is a crazy pipe dream. We’d all love to have Deron Williams over Ramon Sessions but D-Will commands so much money that our bench would be crap.

IF The Lakers wanted to risk some big moves this could be the behind-closed-doors gamble they could pull:

* Go after Dwight Howard with a trade for Bynum, extend Dwight to a max five year deal:
At 4.5% annual raises from his $19.3 mil contract in 2012/13 that totals $105.4million through 2016/17

* Go after Deron Williams with a sign-and-trade for Gasol (and maybe another cheap player), extend Deron to a max five year deal:
At 4.5% annual raises from his $17.8 mil contract in 2012/13 that totals $97.3 million through 2016/17

* Plan to NOT re-sign Kobe after his contract ends after the 2013/14 season (when he’ll be 35) UNLESS he’s willing to take a severely discounted salary for 2 years (so he can retire at 37, a full 20 YEAR career), say about $5 mil a season (the Lakers can tell him this when his current contract is up– sneaky!

* Scout, scout, and SCOUT to find young, athletic, and cheap defensive and perimeter shooting pieces, though careful not to spend more than $2-4 mil on each, including the possibility of small trades.

Remember, only your most recent team can offer you the max 7.5% annual raises. Your new team can offer you only 4.5% maximum raises. If the player opts for a shorter contract (say 3 years) then at the end of that he can get a new contract with the team he’s been on with maximum 7.5% raises at that point. In other words, a longer deal NOW with shorter maximum raises would likely means the Lakers paying them less money through the next five years:

Through the 2012-13 season it’s $1 over the cap = $1 more in penalties. Going above the Salary Cap means you give your tax money (if any, otherwise just the league pays out ‘help’) to teams that are below the Salary Cap, but going over the Punitive Tax means you pay big time taxes.

Beginning with the 2013-14 season, tax rates for incremental spending above the tax level will increase as follows:

* $0-5 million over tax level – $1.50 for $1
* $5-10 million over tax level – $1.75 for $1
* $10-15 million over tax level – $2.50 for $1
* $15-20 million over tax level – $3.25 for $1

However, the repeater tax (in addition to the luxury tax, more punitive) kicks in for teams over the cap in 2014-15 onwards (multiple years over the cap). For each year REPEATING over the luxuy tax they have to ALSO pay these repeater penalties:

* $0-5 million over tax level – $1.50 for $1
* $5-10 million over tax level – $1.75 for $1
* $10-15 million over tax level – $2.50 for $1
* $15-20 million over tax level – $3.25 for $1

This still causes money worries for the Lakers (Almost $470 MILLION over the next 5 years!!), but can still be done if they’re willing to eat the taxes at different times to get all three stars together, and sunset Kobe Bryant in 2 years (or more if he’ll take a lesser paycut for 2 more years). It’s a big series of ‘what ifs’, gambles, and risks, but the Lakers have never been a team to shy away from the drama, risk-taking, and stardom of Los Angeles.

Lakers’ Post-Kobe Era Starts This Summer… By Trading Bynum & Pau

The Lakers are looking at some big decisions to make this summer, and all of it comes down to money and winning (with money taking a much bigger role given the upcoming tax changes starting in 2014/15). I’ve started crunching numbers, trade scenarios, and new possible directions for the Lakers to explore, and I’m gonna give you the rundown here:
It’s fairly obvious to see that Kobe, Bynum, and Pau take up something like 75-80% of the Lakers’ salary totals (new signings, trades, and/or waived players notwithstanding) in the 2012/13 season. The upcoming tougher CBA tax rules are going to make this impossible to work with, as does the increasing frustation of the Lakers’ chemistry issues. 1 or 2 of the ‘big three’ must go and it’s looking like Pau is definitely on his way out, with Bynum a likely 2nd mover.
If no big trades can be worked out the Lakers still have their Amnesty Provision they can use on a player, and although earlier in the season Metta World Peace was the top candidate his recent resurgence as of late probably saved his ass. I think the team will use the AP on Pau if they can’t get something done, although if they let him go and don’t have a truly solid back up PF (Jordan Hill is doing well but not starter potential yet, McRoberts ain’t going to cut it) then they’ll just be shooting themselves in the foot.
Ramon Sessions is the first big question of the summer. He was a great trade for the team with faster feet than Fisher and a truer PG set of skills, but his defense has been lagging and he’s not very aggressive on creating his own shot. He’s also pretty solid on driving the lane for throw-in layups, etc. but has mostly deferred to his bigs and Kobe. He’s still got room for growth and wasn’t given much time to really ‘gel’ with the team, but I think he’s done pretty well all things considered.
Ramon intends to opt out from his player option of $4.6 million and test free agency waters– a smart move considering this season showcased him as a starter and he feels he’s worth more. The Lakers seem prepared to offer him more than the $4.6 mil for next season, but probably saving anything beyond a ‘notable’ increase for going after bigger stars (and build out their pretty slim bench too). I’d expect the Lakers to offer no more than $6.5 million for next season, and that’s if they really believe he’ll be worth the 1st round pick (oh yeah and Luke Walton & Jason Kapono, HAHAHAHAHA) they gave up for a year of his services. At the $5.5 and $6.5 mil offers he can net between $24.6 and $29.1 mil over 4 years, but if you start getting into the $7.5 mil range you’re looking at over $33 mil for that same time– numbers that will be hampered even more by the big luxury tax bloodbath of 2014/15.
Believe it or not Andrew Bynum is question no. 2, not Pau, who’s more of a certainty at no. 3. He’s had a monster year in raising his ability to a whole new level, but continues to act like an immature ass more interested in his stats and money than winning. The talks surrounding Bynum for Dwight are starting up again, as they’re the only two top tier big men in the league (players like Roy Hibbert and DeMarcus Cousins are still in the 2nd tier but keep boosting their stock each year).
Dwight’s drama in Orlando is seemingly endless, and the recent firing of (now former) Coach Stan Van Gundy and (now former) GM Otis Smith is leaving even more questions than answers. Are the Magic really trying to appease Dwight? Will he stay past this season? Would bringing in any stars help, and is that even possible given the cap space limitations the Magic are facing (damn you Hedo Turkoglu and your poisonous contract!). The Magic SHOULD make a trade given the need for new air and talent. Keeping Dwight is just a band aid, and although Bynum’s got attitude he’s probably ready for a new setting as well. The dance needs to end for both teams with their enamorment with their star big men, and a one for one trade has never made more sense. Furthermore, the Magic MIGHT be able to convince Bynum to take a bit less in his new contract next year, but at least for now would end up paying $2.8 million less by trading for him.
From the Lakers’ perspective IF both teams re-signed their swapped players (Bynum on the Magic, Dwight on the Lakers) for just a $7.5 mil increase that would amount to paying over $12 million more for Dwight over 4 years. However, IF (more likely) the big guys each want a bump up to $25 mil starting in 2013/14 that goes back to the same $2.8 million more to have Dwight (because Bynum would probably demand the same). In other words, other than Dwight being 3 years older it would be DEFINITELY in the Lakers’ interest to make a major push for the trade. If the Magic started pushing hard to toss in Hedo for a ‘friendlier’ contract (one that’s close in 2012/13 salary but just for 1 year) we’re still in the power position to tell them ‘fuck off, we’ll go after Dwight as a free agent before the 2013/14 season.
Now we’re looking at ‘The Pau Gasol Question’. Pau has been stellar in his first few years, even with his occasional ‘soft’ labeling and concerns about ‘taking over’. However, his back-loaded contract is coinciding with the latter point in his career, where the question of ‘is he worth $40 mil for 2 more years?’ is just getting louder. This first trade was one that almost came to fruition earlier this year, where we’d give Houston their much-coveted star big man for a solid PF and budding star PG (a need that was lessened when we traded for Sessions). The good news is that Houston seems willing to re-visit this trade now their season is over. Goran Dragic has grown into a surprisingly great SG/PG combo, and will likely cost them less than Lowry in the near future. Lowry is still a fantastic player, but suffered a few minor injuries and is looking for a decent bump up in 2 more years.
The Rockets are more willing to hold onto Dragic and pair him with a star big in Gasol, which makes Lowry a more negotiable piece now, as well as Scola who (while still quite good and durable) has always been on the table, with his contract making the trade all work. For now, the Lakers need to get an answer out of Sessions before they can even think about pursuing this scenario. There would be no point to having both Sessions and Lowry on the team, with the high likeliness over who would start at PG. Even if we could get them to play well with one coming off the bench the money issue would complicate things severely. We still have Steve Blake for another 2 years at $4 million each, then if we re-up Sessions at $5.5 or $6.5 million and have Lowry at about the same we’d be paying near $11-13 million for two PGs who are relatively interchangeable (though we can all agree Lowry is the superior player). Sessions has the benefit of more time with the Lakers, but Lowry owns in every other category statistically.
The other two concerns are inside presence and long-term cost. Pushing this trade through would be nice for a one-year savings of $3.8 million, but then Lowry expecting a bigger payday (not even thinking about re-signing Scola for 2015/16) would mean paying another $24 mil or so over 4 years! In other words, we might save more by NOT trading Pau. The last key point to think about is the ‘other big man’ notion. Scola is a pretty solid PF, more physical than Pau on some level, but he’s still got that international style of play that doesn’t intimiate other players. He doesn’t have the same footwork or skill set as Pau, and though slightly cheaper over 3 years (instead of Pau’s 2) he still seems $2-3 mil overpaid annually given his output.
File this under the ‘you’re betting on David Kahn’s stupidity’ wish list. With the Michael Beasley trade possibility last season falling apart at the last moment, the only upside of that situation was that it showed the T’Wolves were open to talking to the Lakers about trades in general. They’re a great young team that was beset by injuries and a lack of veteran leadership last year, but still have hope for the next few years. Their biggest question has been who’s the next big star on the team? Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio? Neither seems to want to share the spotlight too much (no matter whatever teamwork b.s. they talk about) and the T’Wolves’ unwillingness to offer Kevin Love a 5 year contract (AND give Love an opt-out chance after 3 years!!) signalled their seeing Rubio as their franchise star (they’re saving their big money offer for him).
Trading Pau for Love sounds like another steal for the Lakers, but there actually is a net benefit for both teams. The Lakers will ultimately have to spend more over the next 4 years, but much of that is the acceptable price to pay for one of the youngest, quickly blossoming big men in the league. He can do it all and he’s much younger than Pau (both have comparably fantastic bball IQ), and Kevin Love is a UCLA native. Pau, on the other hand, will actually play better with his Spanish national team best friend Rubio. He’s not a spotlight hog and after making his big money it’s pretty likely he’ll be fine re-signing in 2014/15 for less so Rubio can earn more and they can play as the true DOS LOBOS in Minny. They have great chemistry in Spain and would likely match the same European playmaking style on the T’Wolves. It would sound crazy for this trade to go down at first, but given a few weeks in the new season both teams would fare very well.
This is one of the less preferable trade scenarios, but still something that is possible and at least worth considering (very briefly). On the year by year, Boozer will cost less than Pau, and he’s had pretty decent chemistry on the Bulls in a strong inside presence and putting up decent scoring as needed. He’s got a longer contract that yields more cost, but you can probably get backup PG C.J. Watson too who would be the real jewel here. Again, much of it has to do with Sessions first, and also the willingness to get rid of Pau to lessen the annual burden. If Watson proves himself to the Lakers he’d likely want to re-up for a sizable jump, which would then cut into any sort of ‘savings’ we’d have by not trading in the first place.
This is a more risky trade proposition since if Watson doesn’t measure up to be a starter (and/or just leaves after next year) and Boozer just turns into an expensive slightly-above average PF, then we would have said goodbye to Pau for pretty much nothing. Also, if the Lakers did re-sign Watson at that expected jump that could amount to more than $35 mil for him and Boozer vs. just keeping Pau– a move that seems antithetical to what the Lakers are trying to do.
There are a lot of gears in motion right now fellas, and it may be up until the end of summer (or beyond) before any of them are set. If the Lakers want to keep Sessions the best moves would be to trade Bynum for Dwight and Pau for Love. We recreate a better power-duo on the inside but continue to hope that Sessions will improve his defensive (and occasionally scoring) skill-set.
However, if they end up not retaining Sessions for one reason or another, then it would be key to secure Pau for Lowry & Scola and then push for the Bynum for Dwight trade. We’d have a less dominant PF in Scola (vs. superstar Love) but Lowry would bolster our defensive backcourt (with Kobe) and perimeter scoring, as well as his aforementioned playmaking (read: assists) abilities. In fact, this may play to a better chance since Dwight’s dominance might be hampered by Love’s rebounding and scoring prowess.
Either situation would yield dividends if we could pull off the Bynum for Dwight trade. If we can only trade Pau, however, then continuing to utilize Bynum as our starting C would be fine, but I’d warn he’d be a ticking time bomb in terms of his immaturity and entitlement bullshit. There’s also the ‘Lamar Odom’ situation to consider, but that’s a much lower priority (he’ll probably get re-signed by the Lakers at the veteran’s minimum if he really wants back. End of story.).

What does it mean to be a champion? (On the court and in life)

I’ve probably asked myself that question a million times. Does it take championship trophies or the validation of your bosses? Does it mean getting a job when no one else has one or racking up wins in the face of stronger opponents?

As far as I’ve been able to tell in my short 28 years the answer is both… and neither. Being a champion is something others seems to see in you, but only if you see it in yourself first. I’ll be the first to admit I have my fair share in insecurities, some of them real and most of them not. But my those around me are quick to point out when I let those insecurities take over my inner will, the will that drives all of us to be true champions in whatever it is we do.

I bring this up because over his entire career there’s been this question hovering over Kobe Bryant. Fans, critics, sports journalists, amateur bloggers, and the like have analyzed and discussed Kobe to death because of everything that he is– young superstar, egotistical ball hog, amazing playmaker, alleged criminal, maturing leader, arrogant athlete, devoted father, unfaithful husband… the list goes on.

As a self-avowed Lakers fan for life it does make it near impossible for me to be truly objective when it comes to Kobe. He’s been the greatest legend and my favorite player through my teens and 20’s (Magic ruled my childhood and Jordan fell somewhere in between). But putting all that aside I think there’s a greater element in Kobe that makes us all question whether he is or isn’t a true champion; that he’s a reflection of all of us.

No, most people can’t make countless buzzer-beaters or crazy dunks or instinctive no-look passes. But that’s not what I mean. In most every way Kobe Bryant is the reflection of most people at their best… and at their worst. When Kobe becomes too obsessed with winning he alienates his teammates and has strapped it all on his back to win the game, much like a parent so obsessed with work that it drives away his/her family. But at his best, Kobe has willed his way to winning games and championships, primarily by trusting those around him and helping them grow in the best they can be, much like a teacher or kind stranger offering their hand to another person in need of their help.

Being a champion is recognizing the darkness in oneself and doing what it takes to stay focused on staying on the right path towards true victory. Or as legendary boxer Jack Dempsey once said:  A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.

Maybe the same applies to all of us; knowing what our limits are and pushing just past them. Doing what we do for the end goal, not the right now. Leaving a job we hate because there’s something better for us, or staying at it longer because we have other more important things to protect. Or when we do find something we are meant for being a champion is knowing that you’re doing it better than anyone else can because you’re putting in what others aren’t willing to. That’s what I believe it means to be a champion. Not trophies, not salary promotions, not championship parades or climbing to the top of a mountain– those are just byproducts of being a champion. Being one starts within oneself, where you have the confidence to endure but the clarity to succeed.