Mitch Kupchak says Lakers don’t do salary dumps

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Pau Gasol is still a Los Angeles Laker. He and his $19.3 million salary.

He could have been moved at the trade deadline but the Lakers wanted assets back for the Spanish star. For example, talks with the Phoenix Suns fell apart when the Lakers wanted one of the top two of the four first round picks the Suns have in the 2014 draft. Some teams though the Lakers should have sent them a pick for saving them all that cash.

That’s not how the Lakers view the world — the money is less of an issue for them than just about any team in the league. Look at what Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times.

“The organization is not motivated by saving ‘X’ amount of dollars,” Kupchak said. “We were more concerned with making a basketball deal.”

“I think the expression would be a ‘salary dump.’ That’s not what this organization will do. If we could get picks or players that we felt good about going forward, then we would have done that. But we had opportunities to go below the threshold and we wouldn’t do it.”

The Lakers did save themselves some money at the trade deadline but they are going to end the season about $5.8 million over the luxury tax line, which will cost them about $8.9 million. For a middle or small market team that is a huge chunk of change, for the Lakers and their $250 million a year cable television deal, it’s spare change. It’s that $20 you find in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn since last winter.

Besides, with every salary except Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre coming off the books next season (we all know Nick Young is opting out) the Lakers will be under the tax line next season and likely the next few. Those two seasons below the number re-set them against the repeater tax.

The new CBA has done a lot to level the playing field of the NBA — if you want to spend like the Brooklyn Nets you can but the tools you have to bring in players become limited (smaller mid-level exception, no sign-and-trades to add salary). However, there is never going to be a magical formula that completely levels the playing field between Los Angeles and Memphis, or New York and Oklahoma City. Those smaller markets can certainly build winning teams and successful organization, but the revenue issue is something no CBA could address (or at least not one the players and owners would sign off on).

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

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In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.