Report: Lakers will amnesty Metta World Peace

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The Lakers aren’t Riggin’ for Wiggins – signing veteran center Chris Kaman proves that – but they’re hedging their bets.

With Dwight Howard in Houston, Kobe Bryant injured, Pau Gasol old and Steve Nash older, the shine has worn off Lakers’ once-promising starting lineup. So, no sense keeping the weak link of that unit just to keep up appearances.

The Lakers will amnesty Metta World Peace, according to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

The NBA hasn’t yet officially set its luxury-tax line, and it’s not yet determined what other moves the Lakers will make, so it’s impossible to give an exact amount they’ll save by amnestying World Peace. Some estimates peg the Lakers’ savings as high as $30 million, but I believe the true number will be much lower.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for a progressive tax rate, so if the Lakers had re-signed Howard, World Peace’s salary would have been taxed at a much higher rate. Without Howard, the Lakers will likely fall not far above the tax line, and amnestying World Peace might even get them below it.

For estimating purposes, let’s say the Lakers’ payroll is equal to the luxury-tax line without World Peace’s $7,727,280 contract. That would mean his entire salary, and only his salary, would be taxed. The first $5 million would be taxed at $1.50 per dollar – totaling $7..5 million. The other $2,727,280 would be taxed at $1.75 per dollar – totaling $4,772,740.

In sum, by removing World Peace’s contract from their books, the Lakers would reduce their tax burden by $12,272,740 next season.

It’s more likely the actual number emerges as slightly higher than $12.3 million than slightly below $12.3 million, but that’s a decent estimate.

However, this discussion all amounts to more money for the Buss Family, even though they’ll have still to pay World Peace/

By amnestying World Peace, barring several other moves, the Lakers aren’t generating any cap room. At best, the most likely gain would be the ability to use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,150,000) rather than the taxpayer mid-level exception ($3,183,000).

But spending those extra couple million dollars might push the Lakers back over the luxury-tax line, which might not be so costly this season, but could be in future years. The Lakers should try avoiding the luxury tax this season, when their outlook is bleaker, so they delay triggering repeater penalties when they eventually assemble a better (read: more expensive) roster.

On the court, which is much less important here, the Lakers won’t really miss World Peace if they end up playing for lottery odds rather than a playoff berth – and they might not miss him much, anyway, if they’re trying to win as many games as possible, because he’s no longer a reliable starter. But with Earl Clark headed to Cleveland, the Lakers will need to add another small forward.

As for World Peace, he’ll go on the amnesty waiver wire. At 33, he’s clearly declining, and he might not fit in every locker room. But any contender with strong veteran leadership and cap room should at least enter a minimum-salary bid for him. At that price, he can’t really hurt.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.

Rumor: Lakers, Kawhi Leonard share mutual interest

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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The Spurs seem like they won’t trade Kawhi Leonard.

That won’t stop teams from trying.

There’s a clear disconnect between Leonard and San Antonio. Even the potential of a player as good as Leonard becoming available has teams salivating.

The Clippers are reportedly assembling a trade offer for the L.A. native. Los Angeles’ other team – the Lakers – are also apparently expected to factor prominently.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”

But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here.

“I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”

Of course, every team wants Leonard. He’s an elite two-way player when healthy. But teams will go to differing lengths to pursue him. If the Lakers will “go hard for Leonard,” that means something beyond just desiring him.

Under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made no secret of their plan to acquire stars. That has largely been centered on 2018 free agents, but with that well drying up, talk has turned to 2019 free agents. If the Lakers can get a top 2019 free agent – Leonard – sooner, why wouldn’t they?

One reason is the cost. Trading with San Antonio would require dealing at least some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Signing Leonard outright in 2019 would be simpler.

But a trade is the only surefire way of getting Leonard. If the Lakers don’t trade for him, another team could. With promising young players and cap space, the Lakers have the tools to make an intriguing offer for Leonard.

Or, more likely, the Spurs could keep him. Their relationship isn’t necessarily beyond repair, and they can offer him a super-max contract extension this summer.

They might not offer it. Even if they do, he might not take it. If he doesn’t, he could pledge to re-sign with only certain teams – like the Lakers – and steer trade talks that way. You can see how the thinking develops:

Leonard might be unhappy in San Antonio. He grew up in Southern California. Therefore, he’ll engineer his way to the Lakers?

Maybe, and maybe these anonymous executives know something to that effect. But this mostly sounds lazily speculative.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.