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.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder won in triple overtime, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.