Lakers starters walk onto the court after a timeout during their loss to the Dallas Mavericks in their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles

Lakers had the highest luxury tax bill last season, followed by these five teams

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It is theoretically possible to buy the talent necessary to win a championship in the NBA, but especially since the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement went into effect, it would come at a very substantial cost.

We’ll get to that in a moment.

For now, let’s look at the teams who were served with the biggest luxury tax bills for their respective 2012-13 payrolls.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Your NBA luxury-tax champions from the 2012-13 season? Lakers informed tonight that they were officially charged $29,259,739 in ’12-13 tax

Rest of NBA’s 2012-13 tax bills: 2. MIA ($13,346,242), 3. BKN ($12,883,647), 4. NYK ($9,962,406), 5. CHI ($3,932,336), 6. BOS ($1,181,640)

As has been well-chronicled, the roster of the Lakers failed due mainly to a rash of injuries over the course of the season to key players, but also because of an inability from Dwight Howard to ever truly buy in to the team concept.

L.A. tried to assemble top talent to compete for a title, and paid for it handsomely. The team right behind them on the list of taxpayers was the Miami Heat, who won a second straight championship while paying less than 50 percent of the tax that the Lakers did in the process of getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.

The Nets will seemingly always be taxpayers while their billionaire owner is in charge, and it gets worse for them next season when the new tax penalties kick in — as Stein also reported.

Wanna know how new NBA world works? With essentially same payroll as Lakers last season, Nets will owe $70+ mil in tax after 2013-14 season

You read right, my friends. Nets projected, at this early juncture, to owe somewhere between $72M and $77M in taxes after coming season

The Knicks are another large market that can afford the penalties, and so are the Bulls, who went as far as New York in the playoffs despite their injury-ravaged roster.

What is never mentioned in payroll considerations is the TV deals in certain markets that are conveniently kept separated from these discussions. The Lakers, Nets, and Knicks have substantial, long-term television contracts that can more than offset much of these costs. Other teams, however, are not so fortunate.

The list will be very different next season, as teams like the Lakers and Celtics who seemingly will have no shot to compte for a title will fall off, while the overall bills will decrease due to the increased tax penalties levied by the new collective bargaining agreement.

There will always be teams that may be willing to try to pay for a title, but despite those best efforts, we learned that nothing is guaranteed. You need to look no further than the way that the previous season unfolded with the Lakers in Los Angeles to come to that realization.

Report: Patrick Beverley to drop from All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge title

Patrick Beverley
Associated Press
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Last season, the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley won the NBA All-Star Saturday skills challenge because of his jump shot. In head-to-head battles with the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Bucks (now a Sun) Brandon Knight, Beverley fell behind on the passing part of the competition but made up the ground by knocking down his jump shot at the end.

He was set to come to Toronto to defend his skills title but has been forced to back out due to injury, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After tweaking his ankle Wednesday night in a loss to Portland, Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley will not travel to Toronto to defend his skills competition title at All-Star Weekend, league sources told The Vertical.

Beverley wants to rest the ankle over the All-Star break for the Rockets’ final push to make the Western Conference playoffs.

This has yet to be confirmed by the NBA, nor has a replacement been named, but no doubt Woj is accurate on this. No player would risk further injury for a skills competition.

The Rockets have lost six-of-eight, and with the loss to the Blazers Wednesday night have fallen out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. They will need all their players healthy, including Beverley, but they will also need a lot more than that to climb back in the race — they need to start playing defense, they need to stop becoming disinterested for large stretches of the game, and they need someone in that locker room to step up and be a serious leader of men.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.