Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban reacts during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Dallas

Mark Cuban: It’s not the new luxury tax, it’s the restrictions


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.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.