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).