Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers may consider amnesty of Pau Gasol this summer


Despite what some Lakers fans think ownership does not have an unlimited pocketbook.  Even with their new cable deal. The Buss family has always run the Lakers like a business, just one that plays with more revenue than other teams. Yes, they spent a lot to win but they also turned a profit every season — the Lakers are the sole business of the Buss family now. This is their livelihood.

Which brings us to the Lakers payroll, which is at $100 million for this season, which under the current system means another $30 million in luxury tax is added to that bill. And that bill makes Lakers ownership uncomfortable.

Without major roster changes the Lakers are on target for about $100 million in payroll next season as well — but under the new punitive luxury tax negotiated in the new CBA the Lakers tax bill would jump to $85 million total. That would be $185 million in payroll, plus they will have new revenue sharing bill that could be up to $50 million.

The Lakers are looking to shave that bill this summer.

They are not going to amnesty Kobe Bryant. That got brought up by some Lakers fans and pundits, but that is not how the Lakers relationship with Kobe works. He is too central to their marketing and identity right now. He is the Lakers.

Pau Gasol on the other hand… the Lakers probably wouldn’t amnesty him either. But they have to consider it writes Mike Bresnahan at the Los Angeles Times.

Waiving Gasol via the “amnesty” provision in July could potentially save them more than $60 million in luxury taxes. They would still have to pay his $19.3-million salary, though he could be snapped up by a bidding team that would owe the Lakers millions to help with that cost.

The Lakers also could try to trade Gasol, but his hefty salary next season could be difficult to move and they would likely have to take back salaries totaling at least $15 million, which wouldn’t really help a goal to avoid ridiculous luxury taxes.

I still think the Lakers will try to trade Gasol in an effort to get more athletic and younger, to get players that can better fit Mike D’Antoni’s preferred system. However, the hard part is the Lakers have a lot of cap space in 2014 (even if the re-sign Dwight Howard to a max deal) and it would be very hard to trade Gasol and not take back salary that impinges on that cap space.

The Lakers are likely to amnesty somebody. My guess is Metta World Peace and they try to replace his production with what they get back in a Gasol trade.

I think for one season the Lakers will bite the bullet on a big tax bill in an effort to win one more ring in the Kobe era. Then in the summer of 2014 things change dramatically.

But a Gasol amnesty is not out of the question and you know the Lakers have discussed it.

Good news: Anthony Davis listed as probably vs. Utah Saturday

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Watching Anthony Davis fall to the court clutching his knee, not being able to put any pressure on his leg as he was helped to the locker room, it was frightening Friday night in Los Angeles.

It turns out it’s not that bad. After the game the injury was described as a “knee contusion” and not the serious damage that was feared. Saturday the Pelicans said Davis was good to go.

Whew. Nobody wants to see Davis miss time.

The Pelicans had won three in a row until they ran into the Clippers Friday night. Davis has played better of late — the New Orleans defense is 7.2 points per 100 better when he is on the court — and New Orleans has gotten better point guard play out of Ish Smith.

Stephen Curry abuses Sun’s Price with behind-the-back, pull-up three (VIDEO)

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That is just cruel.

An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.

Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.

Philadelphia has dropped record 27 in a row dating back to last season

Brett Brown

We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.

But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.

With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.

That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.

The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.

But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.

If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.

The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.



Byron Scott, is it time to bench Kobe Bryant? “That’s not an option.”

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant‘s shooting woes this season have been well documented. Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up. Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three, all while jacking up more threes than ever before. He was 1-of-14 shooting against Cleveland, and that’s as many shots as rookies D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle got combined.

If Kobe keeps shooting like this while dominating the ball, is it time to bench Kobe? Coach Byron Scott laughed at the idea, as reported by Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

“I would never, never, never do that,” Scott said after practice at the Lakers’ facility. “That’s not an option whatsoever. No, that’s not an option.”

It’s not an option because this is the guy the fans have paid to see, at home and on the road (the Lakers have still sold out every road game this season, the only team to have done so). Kobe is the draw, he’s going to play.

That doesn’t mean Scott is handling all this well, Kobe has no repercussions for his actions.

Byron Scott is an enabler with Kobe. In his mind Kobe has earned the right to play poorly because of his career, which is just hard to watch.

The real issue I have with Scott enabling Kobe is the double standard — minutes for Russell and the other young players get jerked around when they make mistakes. Scott sounds and acts like a guy with a couple rookies on a veteran team where the objective is to win as many games as possible.

This can’t be emphasized enough: the primary goal for the Lakers this season is to develop Russell, Randle, and Jordan Clarkson (and Larry Nance Jr., who has impressed). But Russell has sat a lot of fourth quarters, and when Scott is asked if playing in those blowout minutes might help develop the young point guard faster, he says, “Nah.” Scott has benched Clarkson at points and called him out in the media.

Reduction of minutes can be a valuable teaching tool with young players — if the conditions of them getting those minutes are precisely laid out. Clear rules with rewards and consequences. That is not the case in Los Angeles, where Russell has said Scott has not spoken to him much about what he’s doing wrong and why he’s spending the ends of games benched. That’s not coaching a guy up; that’s not player development. There need to be clear guidelines and structures for young players to follow.

The only guideline in LA seems to be “Kobe has carte blanche.”