Mark Cuban: It’s not the new luxury tax, it’s the restrictions

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Mark Cuban has led the Dallas Mavericks to be proactive — after winning an NBA championship he started to work to shed the team of long-term salary. It’s not that he didn’t want to win — come on, this is Mark Cuban we are talking about — but he saw the writing on the wall with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and knew he needed to change how he does business. Now. He laughed at the Nets owner when he didn’t.

Most people (myself included) talk about the increased luxury tax bills that start hitting in 2014. To use an easy example, the Lakers $16 million dollar-for-dollar tax bill from this year would have been $52 million in a couple years. That’s a steep tax. The kind all these owners would call “socialist” in any of their other businesses.

But it’s not the money, Cuban told ESPNDallas.com.

In actuality, Cuban doesn’t fear the larger luxury tax hammer the CBA starts swinging in 2013-14 nearly as much as the roster handcuffs it will slap on luxury tax offenders….

“The money is secondary to the team-building strategy,” Cuban said. “Once you get above the tax apron [the $70.307 million luxury tax plus $4 million], there are limitations in player movement that I think have a big impact on how to build a team.”

Already teams over or close to the tax line can’t use their full $5 million mid-level exception, they only have a taxpayers’ $3 million exception. (Teams just under the tax line can use the full MLE but if that takes them over the line there is a hard cap at $74.3 million. A real hard cap.)

The bigger one kicks in in 2014 — teams in the tax cannot do sign-and-trade deals. That means the Lakers could not have gotten Steve Nash this summer. Next summer Brooklyn could not try to do a sign-and-trade deal for Dwight Howard (as if it’s not tough enough to move him as is). The sign-and-trade has long been a favorite tool of high spending teams and it goes away next summer for taxpayers.

So Cuban adjusted. It cost him wins last year and it will again this year, they have fielded a competitive but not contending team around Dirk Nowitzki. But most of their new contracts are one-year deals, and Dallas will be in the free agent game next summer. Unlike Brooklyn, they could make a play for Howard next July.

For our sanity, let’s hope the Howard situation is resolved by then.