It wasn’t LeBron James directly, that is just sort of a happy coincidence.
But it is no accident that in a couple years the Lakers are going to have a boatload of salary cap space.
Lakers owner Jim Buss — his father Jerry still owns the team but Jim is the guy running the show now — told Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register the plan was to have maximum flexibility the year Kobe Bryant’s contract ended, the summer of 2014.
“We purposely ended all contracts that year,” Buss said. “I can’t talk about Kobe (Bryant), but this is what he signed till. So basically we put everything to that, and we want to make a big splash in the free-agent market if we get to that spot. So we designed the contracts and the players and our future all around that….
“Yeah, depending on the free agents that year,” Buss said. “We would basically, money-wise, be able to sign the top free agent – maybe even two. I don’t know the numbers exactly, because we’re not privy to what the cap is and how much room we have, but it’s going to be close to two of the top free agents that year.”
Right now the only Lakers contract on the books for that season is Steve Nash at $9.7 million. You can expect Dwight Howard will be added to that list in the neighborhood of $21 million when he re-signs with the team this summer (he could technically leave but I wouldn’t bet on it). That’s a little over $30 million on the books, which even with the salary cap where it is now would leave them $28 million to chase free agents. That’s at least one max free agent.
A bunch of you just read that and said “the rich get richer” or something like that. Maybe with more curse words in there. And you’re ready to go off on your “the NBA is fixed” rant.
But what the Lakers are doing is something Portland or Memphis or Washington or any team can do — clear out cap space to chase the biggest names in the game.
It’s what the Heat did successfully under Pat Riley — they took a huge risk but it paid off. Other teams, including the Knicks and Nets, have tried similar strategies but it doesn’t always work.
It just always seems to work for the Lakers. Because if you’re a big market and willing to take risks like this, the Memphis’ of the world will almost always lose out no matter how prepared they are.