Mark Cuban has led the Dallas Mavericks to be proactive — after winning an NBA championship he started to work to shed the team of long-term salary. It’s not that he didn’t want to win — come on, this is Mark Cuban we are talking about — but he saw the writing on the wall with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and knew he needed to change how he does business. Now. He laughed at the Nets owner when he didn’t.
Most people (myself included) talk about the increased luxury tax bills that start hitting in 2014. To use an easy example, the Lakers $16 million dollar-for-dollar tax bill from this year would have been $52 million in a couple years. That’s a steep tax. The kind all these owners would call “socialist” in any of their other businesses.
But it’s not the money, Cuban told ESPNDallas.com.
In actuality, Cuban doesn’t fear the larger luxury tax hammer the CBA starts swinging in 2013-14 nearly as much as the roster handcuffs it will slap on luxury tax offenders….
“The money is secondary to the team-building strategy,” Cuban said. “Once you get above the tax apron [the $70.307 million luxury tax plus $4 million], there are limitations in player movement that I think have a big impact on how to build a team.”
Already teams over or close to the tax line can’t use their full $5 million mid-level exception, they only have a taxpayers’ $3 million exception. (Teams just under the tax line can use the full MLE but if that takes them over the line there is a hard cap at $74.3 million. A real hard cap.)
The bigger one kicks in in 2014 — teams in the tax cannot do sign-and-trade deals. That means the Lakers could not have gotten Steve Nash this summer. Next summer Brooklyn could not try to do a sign-and-trade deal for Dwight Howard (as if it’s not tough enough to move him as is). The sign-and-trade has long been a favorite tool of high spending teams and it goes away next summer for taxpayers.
So Cuban adjusted. It cost him wins last year and it will again this year, they have fielded a competitive but not contending team around Dirk Nowitzki. But most of their new contracts are one-year deals, and Dallas will be in the free agent game next summer. Unlike Brooklyn, they could make a play for Howard next July.
For our sanity, let’s hope the Howard situation is resolved by then.
Kevin Durant has been working out on the court before the last couple of Warriors road games, and people watching have taken note — he was moving well, shooting, and generally looking healthy for a guy coming off a grade 2 MCL sprain and a bone bruise.
Reports were out that Durant was on target to return before the end of the season.
Wednesday the Warriors confirmed that.
Teams are vague, realistically what is that timeline?
Durant likely would be on a minutes restriction for those game, but just getting to shake the rust off and work on his conditioning in a real game would help Golden State heading into the playoffs.
Not that they need much help, having won eight in a row. The Warriors have a 2.5 game lead over the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference heading into the game between the two Wednesday night.
The Lakers lost to the Wizards because they are young, inconsistent, and defend like traffic cones at times.
But that young Lakers core also has its moments.
Los Angeles strung together 15 straight made buckets to end the third quarter Tuesday night. Some of it was flukey, like Corey Brewer driving and finishing contested layups like he’s Kyrie Irving, but there were things Lakers fans should want to see such as D'Angelo Russell draining threes, Jordan Clarkson working hard off the ball and his teammates finding him, and Julius Randle just attacking.
After this run the Lakers led by 13 going into the fourth, but lost the game.
What this ultimately means is next season the Knicks should have Joakim Noah available just before Thanksgiving.
Noah has been suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but because he was out due to knee surgery the suspension did not start until he was “physically able to play.” Noah said on Tuesday that he had been cleared, but that was just by the team doctors. He also had to be cleared by the NBA’s doctors (because if teams could cheat they would).
That happened Wednesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.
Noah’s first season in New York after signing a four-year, $72 million deal has been a disappointment. To put it kindly. He’s not been completely healthy, and any observer of him the past few years had to wonder if he would ever be fully healthy again. He had lost a step from the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year before the Knicks signed him. The Knicks don’t need him to necessarily be that dominant a force again (although it would be nice), but they need to get more out of him and see if he is a fit next to Kristaps Porzingis for now as the Knicks try to build a roster for next season that can play a little defense. And the triangle.
The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).
Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.
Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.
It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.