“The hardest thing of all is navigating this luxury tax, unfortunately. I went back to New York this week for labor meetings. I’m on the committee. And you know, obviously, the league wants everyone to have a chance and right now, there’s a certain element out there that believes we “checkbook win,” we won because we have the most salaries on our team.
“The truth is, we’re only $40 million more than the luxury tax. Now, that’s not small but it’s not a massive number. We’re $200 million over in total because most of that is this incredible penal luxury tax. And what I consider to be unfair and I’m going to say it on this podcast and I hope it gets back to whoever is listening … and obviously it’s self-serving for me to say this, but I think it’s a very unfair system because our team is built by — all top eight players are all drafted by this team.”
That statement will cost Joseph Lacob half a million dollars.
Lacob, the CEO and co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, made the statement on Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner’s “Point Forward” podcast (sit back for a second and enjoy that Warriors’ forward cost his owner another $500,000). Also, Iguodala pointed out that Lacob was wrong because Andrew Wiggins, one of the Warriors’ top eight, was not drafted by the team.
However, what got Lacob in trouble was commenting on CBA negotiations, and as part of that calling the luxury tax unfair, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
The league is very sensitive to the idea that things are not fair or even. The concept of parity, the idea that a well-managed small market team — Milwaukee, San Antonio, Cleveland — can compete and win at the highest levels of the sport is essential to the NBA mythology. The NBA does not want the perception of being in a Premier League situation where a handful of teams — ones that generate massive revenue or have wildly wealthy owners (or both) — can simply spend their way to the top of the standings.
Of course, spending matters. The Warriors may have drafted and developed the core of their four title teams, but it’s Lacob and the massive cash generated by the new Chase Center that allows them to pay Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Wiggins (Kevin Durant for a stretch) and the rest and win rings. Steve Ballmer’s spending — and not just on players like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but on facilities and an innovative front office — has transformed the Clippers. In the same way Mark Cuban’s spending remade the Mavericks.
Note that before their current ownership groups, the Clippers, Warriors, and Mavericks were three of the worst-run organizations in the league, they didn’t spend, and they lost a lot of games. Good ownership willing to spend matters. A lot. It’s not everything (owners can and do spend big and lose), but a willingness to spend is a huge advantage.
But those owners better not puncture the concept of parity. Or, talk about CBA negotiations.