The Economy and the Lakers

Kurt —  February 19, 2009


This winter, with the national economy tanking and sports team owners taking hits on stock and real estate, the market for baseball players shriveled up. Bobby Abreu goes to the Angels for just $5 million. Consistent 40 home run guy Adam Dunn to the Nationals for just $10 million. Manny Ramirez still doesn’t’ have a deal.

Except in the Bronx. There, the Yankees spent money like it was 2005, throwing out by far the three largest deals of the off-season.

How did they do that in this economy? CNBC’s Darren Rovell explains:

Think about all the other owners who have gotten pounded this year in the sector of the economy that they might still have their money in.

Think about the New York Mets, whose owners not only lost money from the Madoff mess, but also are in the real estate investment business. So too is Theodore Lerner, the owner of the Washington Nationals, who were hoping to land Teixeira. The Chicago Cubs are being sold by an entity that is bankrupt.

Go down the list and you can see that there’s a lot of people that lost money this year in other businesses. I have no idea where the Yankees are investing their personal money, but the bottom line is that their business is only the New York Yankees.

What does that mean? It means that as long as the Steinbrenners believe that the business of the Yankees will be good, they are not as affected as the others are. Will people still go to games? If not, will they watch the YES Network. It’s a pretty simple equation.

That brings us to Jerry Buss and his family, the majority owners of the Los Angeles Lakers. Buss made his money on real estate deals, but today he is in the Lakers business and very little else.

And right now the Lakers are a very good business, recession or no. The building still sells out at the highest ticket prices in the Association. The Lakers television ratings are up (unlike the Steinbrenners, the Buss family does not own the cable network showing games, but they do get a healthy payment). While Lakers officials said they have felt some pinch from sponsors, go to a game and it does not appear to be significant.

Just how healthy are the Lakers financially, as the second highest valued franchise in the NBA? This is what Forbes says (thanks to Darius for finding this info):

Based on the team valuations made by Forbes for all the 30 teams, the Lakers were pegged at US$ 534 million. Here’s the breakdown:

1. $123 million or 23% comes from the earnings from the league’s shared profits
2. $240 million or 41% comes from the value of the city’s market size
3. $140 million or 24% comes from the stadium earnings (ticket sales, merchandise, food, etc.)
4. $81 million or 14% is attributed to the team’s brand

Last season the Lakers were second in the league in operating profit at $47.9.

All of this ties into the big question for we Lakers fans — just how much is Jerry Buss willing to spend to keep this team together?

This summer, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza will be free agents. The Lakers if they pick up Sun’s option (his deal is two years) will have nine players on the books for next year with a payroll of about $74 million. This season, the luxury tax is at just higher than $71 million, but that number is expected to drop the next two seasons. (To really get a feel for what this means, read the excellent post from the always-amazing Tom Ziller over at Fanhouse. That guy should be bronzed. In a good way, not the Hans Solo way.)

Right now, in Jerry Buss’ head, there is a number of how high he will go. We can speculate all we want about it, but the fact is we have no real idea what that number is. We know he will spend more to win, but we also know he made some cost-cutting roster moves during the three-peat years to keep payroll under control.

Not only do we not know the number, we don’t know if it is possible to fit both Odom and Ariza under that number. Remember, if the Lakers sign both of them, they are still going to have to sign at least three more minimum level players (this year’s late first rounder, maybe Shannon Brown and another pick or free agent). The likelihood that the Lakers would keep Odom and Ariza and use the Mid-Level exception on a free agent seems almost nil.

If Kobe opts out and resigns a max deal extension, he will make about $1 million less (but will extend five years out). That is not a huge savings, but every little bit helps.

No doubt this Lakers roster, as is, can win — the Lakers have the best record in the NBA and are serious title contenders. The question is can the Buss family keep the band together.

One other factor in all of this is AEG, the company that owns 30% of the Lakers and the majority of Staples Center. AEG just spent insane amounts of money to build LA Live, the restaurant and entertainment complex across the street from Staples Center. This is a tough time to open a venture like that, and you need foot traffic to make it work. The kind of foot traffic that a sold-out Staples Center 41 times a season plus playoffs provides.

AEG cannot afford to have the Lakers slip. The question again is how much AEF is willing to pay to make sure they do not.

This is a hard topic, because reading into the Buss family and its finances is about as easy as bringing peace to the Middle East. There is no way to get 100% knowledge or certainty.

But it looks like they should be in position to keep the band together. Unless the market goes crazy this summer and a couple of band members get huge offers. Then, well, who knows?

Kurt

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123 responses to The Economy and the Lakers

  1. Barring someone throwing a grossly high contract at Odom or Ariza, both are probably returning. I don’t think that scenario happens in this economic climate either though — the days of Thomas and Dolan are long past.

    The 2009 free agent class doesn’t have a ton of home run free agents either, so I don’t think we have a big onus to sign anyone. Artest is available, but unless we’re willing to offer the full MLE, I don’t think we win that bidding war. Unless a veteran wants to sign for the minimum to win a ring, I think we stand pat with our current roster, sans minor signings to fill out the roster.

  2. Don’t forget to add poker winnings into those equations, Kurt. Those are important.

  3. Great write up.

    I am dubious about our ability to keep both Odom and Ariza, unless there is a significant cost cutting move this summer (Walton or Morrison). While the combination of everyone saving for 2010 and the recession will probably preclude the types of offers Odom would normally get, he’s still good and young enough that someone will offer him at least $8-9 million a year, probably more. I don’t see how we give him that and have anything leftover for Ariza (just adding Odom and 3 minimum players would put us over $85 million in payroll, which is probably over $100 million after taxes — far ahead of where Buss has ever been).

    So, if we can’t cut someone like Walton or Morrison, and are left to choose between Odom or Ariza + another midlevel free agent, what do you prefer? Possible free agents that might fall in the midlevel range (remembering that there will be unusual deals given the market conditions, especially for veterans looking for a last run at a title in LA):

    Bibby, Marvin Williams, Felton, Gooden, Kidd, Sheed, Frye, Nate Robinson.

    Now, in normal times all of these players would land long term contracts far above the midlevel, but these are not normal times and all of these players have age, attitude, or upside issues. Would Kidd or Bibby take a short term midlevel to finish out in LA? Would Sheed? Probably not, but it’s not crazy, right? If one were available, would you rather land them and Ariza for $10 million or just keep Odom?

    Props to Jerry for opening up his wallet last year when no one else would and taking Gasol. Let’s hope he’s willing to open it a little further this summer to maximize our chances of winning during Kobe’s window — whether that be by keeping the core together or grabbing a free agent steal or two.

  4. Ok, my knowledge about the salary cap rules is limited… Can someone please explain me why can’t we use the MLE on Ariza?

  5. nice point pinky!

    i still have good faith that odom will take a pay cut though not as significant as biting MLE levels (though that would be amazing). i believe ariza is here to stay.

    and if we are winning. and if we have the high hopes in the coming 4-5 years, then kobe should stick around. but then, he always bolts out the following season in my 2k9 (sheesh).

    it’s really up to buss. i believe he hasn’t reached his spending ceiling and in a time of financial meltdown, that’s a big statement.

    again i say, as we keep winning. as we keep high hopes for 4-5 years at least, veterans and aspiring young ones are here to flock and give preference to the lakers perhaps even giving up money to be part of such a franchise.

  6. Great insight to the teams future, Kurt. I’m with Reed in that it will be difficult to keep both Odom and Ariza unless Buss goes well beyond the spending levels that the team has ever had. I’m holding out hope though.

    As for the question about Odom or Ariza + mid-level guy, that really becomes an argument of who that mid-level guy is. Is he a big man? Because if he’s not, that leads us to questions of who the team tabs as it’s back up big man. That would then lead us to questions about what the coaching staff thinks about Gasol and Bynum playing 35-40 minutes a night next season while also remaining injury free, because that is going to impact the decision on the quality of the back up big that is tabbed. If that mid-level guy is a big man (like Rasheed) will he fit in and take on the self-less leadership role that Odom has? As Kurt alluded to with Dr. Buss and his thought process to payroll, there are many questions that are currently unanswered.

    Getting back to the personnel side of things, I have an obvious affinity for Odom. I don’t think we’re as good a team without him. I think his contributions can be lost in the shuffle when we look at the growth of and consider how well Ariza has played and the difference that he makes when he plays. So Reed’s question is really tough for me, as I really love Ariza as a player too. My argument for Odom is that last season we were a Finals team with him here and Ariza sidelined. That’s not a knock on Ariza as much as it’s a testament to what Odom brought to the table. That fact makes it tough for me to see a scenario, with this current team, where Odom is not a major contributor. Money will play an issue though, I know. So getting back to my first paragraph, I remain hopeful that we can keep both players. Choosing between those two specific guys is like asking me to choose between my best of friends…how do you choose?

  7. 4. As I understand it, we could use the MLE on Ariza, but the point would be kind of moot. The MLE is an exemption to the salary cap, so you can use it to bring in a player when you are over the cap (which the Lakers are). But, the Lakers already have the “Bird rights” to Ariza so they can go over the cap to sign him already. Neither of those are an exemption from the luxury tax, which is the real problem.

  8. I think Lieweke and AEG are key to this. Like Kurt said they just spent 2.5 BILIION dollars on LA Live and are willing to wait out the recession. Part of the future of LA Live is not only bringing in good music acts/tasty restaurants, it is the Lakers, point blank period. I think that AEG, provided the Lakers win the Chip, will pay that luxury tax money to keep guys like Odom and Ariza.

  9. The number I have heard being thrown around for the Lakers “cap” is $100M, including luxury tax. I don’t know if that is a number that Buss has thrown out there or if someone is just speculating.

  10. Renato,
    We can use the MLE on Ariza. We could use the MLE on Odom. The MLE can be used on any FA that you sign (whether it’s your own or another team’s FA).

    However, the financial side of this is tricky due to the Luxury Tax. The MLE and other exceptions (like the Vet’s minimum or the Larry Bird exception) are ways to circumvent the NBA’s soft salary cap. These exceptions allow a team to go over that cap to sign FA’s. But the Luxury Tax is a hard/set in stone number that varies from year to year and has a strict dollar for dollar penalty for any team that spends above that number. The Lakers will pay the tax next season regardless of what they do about Odom or Ariza (they could let both walk and still pay the tax). Add to this that there have been articles released recently that talk of the luxury tax line going DOWN next season (when it has risen every season since these rules have been in place). With a lower luxury tax line, teams will be spending less money because they don’t want to pay that tax. And for a team like us, with FA’s that we’d like to keep in Odom and Ariza, that burden of a lower tax means that the team may not be able to sign both players because the penalty of increased luxury tax payments will be a major financial deterrent. The tax penalty will be too much. Unless Dr. Buss and the other ownership group decide that they’ll spend above the levels that they ever have (including the Shaq/Kobe years).

  11. Mihm miffed at trade

    Mihm’s agent said Thursday morning that the trade that sent the backup center to Memphis in exchange for a conditional second-round pick in 2013 came as a “complete surprise” to his client.

    “Chris is extremely disappointed,” agent Jeff Austin said. “He loved being part of the Lakers.”

    While the Lakers saved about $2 million in salary and luxury tax payments without altering the core of their roster, they lost a player willing to sacrifice for the chance to win a championship. Mihm was adamant earlier this season that he did not want to be traded even if it meant more playing time, insisting he was “happy knowing that we’re trying for something special here.”

    aw poor mihm, i really liked him. wish we could have kept him

  12. Although Lamar Odom has finally become the player the Lakers have been waiting for since they traded for him, I find it highly unlikely that management will reward him with anything more than $8 million. Also, I beleive that Ariza will see a contract similar to what Radmanovic got from the Lakers several years back.

    Lamar has proven that he is simple nothing more than a great role player. He is not a star, and even with his recent rebounding rampage, still isn’t worth 8 figure salary. It’s also important to recognize that his current contract shows that he is actually only making $11.5 million this season. The reason he is being paid $14 million is because of a trade kicker that was included in his deal with Miami. To me, it’s obvious that he’s not worth as much today as he was back then and therefore is looking at a decrease in salary. How big will that decrease be? Well, based on his inconsistent play, I would probably max out on him at $8 million/year for 2 years (who knows how long he can mentally compete).

    As Trevor Ariza has already proven, he is young, versatile, and still has plenty of potential. I see Ariza as a less superstar like Lebron James. He is big, quick, and runs over anything in his way. He is a great rebounder and passer. His assist numbers would be higher if he didn’t play with Kobe and Pau. His shot is in development mode and he has definitely become far more capable of scoring than he was during his time in New York and Orlando. It’s been a pleasure having him in a Lakers uniform and I’d say he is a guaranteed resign. With few teams willing to give up cap space due to the hunt for 2010 free agents, the Lakers will have little competition in the Ariza sweepstakes. Also, after the Lakers win the title this year, Ariza will be far more committed to the franchise as he will surely want another ring.

    Two more quick thoughts:

    1) I constantly hear about Kobe opting out of his contract and commanding a higher salary. Anyone consider that maybe he would be willing to take a salary cut in order for the Lakers to be able to resign both Odom and Ariza? Kobe has made enough money to live comfortably and is guaranteed to make ridiculous amounts of money no matter what. As a man that is working hard to build his legacy and be remembered as the best to ever play the game, he is going to have to help management keep talent around him and he is mature enough to recognize that.

    2) Would you rather resign Odom or pick up Artest? Trade away Luke Walton and acquire Ron Artest. With Ariza and Artest playing the three spot, there is no need for Walton. Of course, this theory only holds if the Lakers don’t win the title (GOD forbid) and need some tough guy in the lineup.

    BTW, Kurt already knows I am biased toward Lamar Odom because his consistent 1-2 at the free throw line drives me insane! I’ve been waiting for the trade Lamar Odom boat to come around but his sudden amazing play has shut me up temporarily… hopefully he doesn’t get me riled up again!!

  13. A lot depends on whether or not we win the championship this year. If we do then there is an amount of money available and anticipated that could cover Odom. If not, then I suspect the allowable budget will be less for next year and Odom will be gone.

    One other thought, regarding Odom. Odom seems to play better without Bynum and Bynum will be the starting center next year. That thought must be passing through the Buss’s heads.

  14. Some key numbers from Kurt’s post:

    1) 55% of the team’s “value” comes from factors that aren’t likely to change anytime soon (i.e. the team’s “brand” and the market size). So even if the other factors are reduced somewhat, they are still a very valuable asset.

    2) The Lakers turned a $48 million dollar profit last year.

    Those two things tell me that the team’s near future is relatively stable, and that Dr. Buss can absorb a higher tax penalty relatively easily if he so desires. Dr. Buss has proven time and time again that winning is all that matters to him, and if money needs to be spent, it will be.

    I think the two recent deals to shed VladRad and Mihm’s salary were made in order to clear things up payroll-wise for the coming season, and I expect the Lakers to re-sign both Ariza and LO during the offseason.

    Of course, the real wild card here, as Kurt alluded to, is that we don’t know really know what Dr. Buss has his money tied up in, and what kind of debt load he is carrying. Just about every asset – aside from gold bricks – has lost 40% or so of its value in the past year, so there’s a pretty decent chance that old Jerry may have already switched from Cristal to Dom – a modest downgrade, but a downgrade nonetheless. And then there’s the question as to whether he got burned in the Madoff or Stanford ponzi schemes (unlikely – Jerry is a shrewd guy).

    But, on the flip side, I would bet that unlike many franchises/owners, the Buss family’s ownership of the team is debt-free. Unlike Frank McCourt, who is leveraged to the hilt with the Dodgers, Jerry owns his majority share of the team free and clear, and he has a large corporation as a junior partner, so he can ride out a recessionary economy longer than most.

  15. I am assuming that they will not be able to resign Odom, resign Ariza, and use the MLE on someone not currently on the roster.

    What does upper management think about Bynum’s injury potential?

    Are there any good point guards that could be signed for the MLE? (By “good” I mean one that is better than Fisher and Farmar are on defense, and not a complete hole on offense.)

    I think the answers to those two questions will drive the decision by management.

    If they aren’t confident about Bynum’s future health, then re-signing Odom will be the priority. If they are confident that Bynum is not injury prone, then I think that re-signing Ariza and signing a better PG will be the priority.

  16. 12. I was also thinking about kobe sacraficing some money to make sure he has a good supporting cast. but then again, is there any player out there that deserves every penny of his contract as much as mamba does? he plays
    through every injury/illness and never takes a night off. it would be unfair to ask him to take a pay cut, because kobe gives the lakers 10 times more money back just because he is who he is. try selling those expensive tickets without bryant on your team… :) . i am quite sure buss knows that.

  17. 14 – ” … Bynum will be the starting center next year … ”

    But for how many games? Sadly, he seems pretty fragile. Is that going to improve as he gets older? I doubt it.

  18. Even though Lamar has been playing out of his skin of late, if it came down to choosing between him and Ariza I’m afraid I’d be bidding Odom adieu. Obviously most Laker fans would prefer to keep the both of them but in this climate of economic uncertainty the chances of us keeping them both are slim. 2009 has been a certified breakout year for Ariza, while Lamar’s professionalism in handling his benching and his dominating performances in lieu of Bynum guarantee that both players will be highly sought after on the FA market.

    Between Ariza, Luke, Sun + Morrison (plus any draft picks/low-level signings) we should have small forward covered, plus Kobe can play there in a pinch. Obviously we will be weaker than this season but I simply can’t fathom losing Ariza.

    In that case I would love to sign a veteran big man to back up Gasol and Bynum. I’ve always had fantasies about Rasheed wearing the purple and gold, and while some might have reservations about the pronounced slippage in his production over the past few years and his carefree approach to every second game, I tend to think that a change of scenery and joining a legitimate contender (not to mention being coached by the Zen Master) would invigorate Rasheed’s game.

  19. Just got this email from Eric Pincus, and I’m going to adjust the post accordingly:

    Sun’s salary of $736,420 for next year is fully guaranteed.

    If Kobe opts out he’d actually be taking a pay reduction.

    The most he can re-sign for is 5% more than what he makes this year – or $22,325,625. If he doesn’t opt out, he’ll earn $23,034,375.

  20. Um, I’m sorry, but has everyone dropped off into crazy land? If we have to choose between Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, we choose Odom by a mile. Have you forgotten what our frontcourt looks like now? Discounting Odom, we have Gasol, an injured Andrew Bynum, DJ MBenga, and Josh Powell. Yes, Bynum was playing great earlier in the season, but it doesn’t matter how great he plays if he’s hurt for long stretches of time. I’m as optimistic as they come about Mbenga and Powell being serviceable bigs, but that’s all they are: serviceable. Neither of them will inspire fear in their opponents, nor will they give us even half the production of Lamar, not to mention all the intangibles Lamar brings.

    I love Ariza as much as the next Laker fan, but saying that he is worth more to the Lakers than Odom is just plain wrong. Yes, Ariza gives us something that no other current Laker can (high energy on the wing, ability to defend almost any opposing SF), but Odom brings not only defensive versatility, but also becomes the focal point of our offense when Kobe and Pau are sitting.

    I think everyone is just realizing what I’ve been saying all along: re-signing Odom is going to be very, very difficult. It’s been eased a little in the past few weeks because of the VladRad and Mihm trades, but it’ll still be extremely difficult. Even if Odom agrees to a paycut (and that’s a huge if), there’s no way I’m accepting less than 8 mil if I’m Odom. There are a number of teams with cap-space this offseason (Hollinger wrote that some teams may actually be begging Dumars and Presti to take some of their players off their hands), so it won’t be surprising to see Odom get offered more than 8 mil on the open market.

    Perhaps it is his fate, but I think Odom is one of the players where we will only know what he truly brings to the team when he is gone. I hope we never have to find out.

  21. Hear, hear, Zephid.

  22. Zephid,
    Odom’s game does not mesh well with Bynum’s. Remember that last season, he also performed significantly better with Gasol than with Bynum, so his numbers the last 2 weeks should not be a surprise to anyone. So if you keep Odom, you are not going to get the full benefit of his ability unless Bynum gets hurt. With Ariza, you will, at a price that would probably allow you to pick up a good PG, too, which would be addressing the weakest position on the team.

    So it depends on Bynum’s health, and the PGs that are available.

  23. Again, I really don’t think that Odom isn’t returning. Is there someone that’s going to offer more than $8 million a year in this economic climate and when everyone is prepping for 2010? Detroit is shooting for Boozer, Memphis isn’t going to burn that many ducats for Odom, and the Thunder likely want to focus on developing the players they have. Barring a meltdown in negotiations, Odom is a fairly safe bet to come back. We haven’t been cutting salary for nothing here.

    The free agent class is interesting, but doesn’t pop out at you. Signing Artest would be great, but it creates a logjam at the three and trading Walton is incredibly impractical with his contract. Is he worth MLE money? Maybe. Be interesting to see how he performs in the playoffs. I don’t see Rasheed coming here — a team like the Spurs makes a lot more sense. Marion will demand too much money. Iverson isn’t coming here unless it’s for the minimum to win a ring. Kidd doesn’t really provide decent help for us. Miller and Bibby likely find decent contracts elsewhere. To sum it up, there’s not a whole lot for us to pursue unless someone is willing to do the “sign for the minimum because I want a ring route”.

  24. I agree with exhelodrvr.

    Odom is obviously an integral part of what we all hope will be a Championship team but the fact remains that Ariza will come much cheaper than Odom and has youth on his side.

    If Odom bolts and we retain Ariza we should still have enough dough to sign a veteran PG or PF/C willing to take a pay-cut for the opportunity of a title-run.

  25. If I have to choose between Odom and Ariza, I am on Odom’s bandwagon. With gasol and odom on front line minus ariza and bynum, we are still the best team in the west and top 3-4 team in league. Can we say the same if we replace odom with Ariza. Ariza is a great energy guy off the bench but that’s all he is. Odom is probably the hardest guy to defend against by other teams PFs. If I have to choose between verstility of Odom or energy of Ariza, give me Odom every time. Also all of this is in Bynum’s absence. and given his history for last two years, can u imagine if something like this happened again, what would life be like without Odom? Would we be favored to win the west let alone make it to the finals. This is why we keep odom instead of ariza. Hopefully we won’t have to choose

  26. If I had to choose between Odom and Ariza, I would choose Ariza given his age and how he has developed while with the Lakers. Then you will have to take into account the market. There is Rasheed Wallace, Marvin Williams, Chris Wilcox, Charlie Villanueva, and others who might become available this summer. Should be interesting.

  27. I don’t know if I’m the only one that thinks this way, but I wonder if there’s an issue of playing time as well as money for next year. It seems to me that both Odom and Ariza could be starters on other teams next year (Ariza might be a little green, but if you could lock him in for five years for 5/6 mil per….).

    Odom has demonstrated that he’s willing to settle for a secondary role, but Ariza might be tempted. And if Odom re-signs, that could mean less playing time for Ariza. To me, that makes it less likely that we end up with both of them.

    All this changes if the Lakers win a championship, of course, both in players’ willingness to stay (or go) and in how much the owners are willing to pay. And frankly, I’d much rather sit back and enjoy this year than think about next year.

  28. Kobe opting out to take a pay reduction but longer contract isn’t all that far-fetched, I’d think. But that’s something for Kobe to decide, not the market or us fans.

    As for keeping both Odom and Ariza, I’m sure we all have high hopes. It’s just that we’re asking Buss to take, what, up to 20 mil in losses? Sure his profit is around 50 mil, but I’m sure his lifestyle is configured around making that much anyway. To ask the owner to basically halve his income isn’t something I’ll ever advocate, especially since I don’t see how a championship will increase revenues of a franchise that’s consistently selling out anyway.

    I think at the end of the day, we’ll see Odom take a paycut to re-sign with us for less (if he’s willing to take significantly less, I think Buss will re-sign him) as even that won’t be matched by other contenders. As for Ariza, I think he has a chance to be lured away by some other team for an amount that’s higher than we can afford since I don’t think there’s room for him once Odom is resigned (which puts us deep into lux tax territory).

    The hope I have is that teams recognize(or think) Ariza as a triangle person, much the same way D’Antoni’s players are known to have inflated stats and don’t offer him too much.

  29. Just for the record:

    ’08-09 Salary Cap: $58.68 million
    ’09-10 Salary Cap: TBD from % of ’08-09 League revenue (i.e.- it should drop)

    Commited Salaries for ’09-10: Teams under $55 mil:
    Pistons: $33,093,746
    Grizzlies: $36,274,350
    Thunder: $39,006,888
    Hawks: $40,865,197
    Raptors: $45,753,371
    Nets: $50,390,287
    Blazers: $50,567,802
    T-Wolves: $50,769,341

    Notable Unrestricted Free Agents in ’09-10 (unless waived and signed later this season):
    Lamar Odom
    Trevor Ariza
    Ron Artest
    Mike Bibby
    Allen Iverson
    Matt Barnes
    Marquis Daniels
    Grant Hill
    Jason Kidd
    Stephon Marbury
    Shawn Marion
    Antonio McDyess
    Andre Miller
    Zaza Pachulia
    Ronald Murray
    Anthony Parker
    Wally Szczerbiak
    Joe Smith
    Ime Udoka
    Chris Wilcox

    Notable Restricted Free Agents in ’09-10:
    Raymond Felton
    Linas Kleiza
    Paul Millsap
    Jamario Moon
    David Lee
    Nate Robinson
    Ramon Sessions
    Hakim Warrick
    Charlie Villanueva
    Marvin Williams

    Have Player Option ’09-10:
    Kobe Bryant
    Carlos Boozer
    Jamal Crawford
    Kyle Korver
    Al Harrington
    Zydrunas Ilgauskas
    Mehmet Okur
    Jermaine O’Neal
    Hedo Turkoglu
    Anderson Varejao

  30. Edited Notable Unrestricted Free Agents in ‘09-10 list:

    Lamar Odom
    Trevor Ariza

    Ron Artest
    Matt Barnes
    Mike Bibby
    Marquis Daniels
    Allen Iverson
    Grant Hill
    Jason Kidd
    Stephon Marbury
    Shawn Marion
    Antonio McDyess
    Andre Miller
    Ronald Murray
    Zaza Pachulia
    Anthony Parker
    Joe Smith
    Wally Szczerbiak
    Ime Udoka
    Rasheed Wallace
    Chris Wilcox

  31. We’ll also see if ego or hurt feelings come into play based off how the team approaches/initiates negotiations with these players. Will player X be upset that the team chose to approach player Y first? Will player X’s contract (and implied value) mean player Y wants that same amount or more (and I’m not talking about just LO vs. Ariza…what about a guy like Sasha that is making almost 5 mil? Will Ariza want at least that much? Will Odom say that he needs at least $X more than that? etc.) This will be an interesting summer for this team.

  32. Odom is a luxury to have. Our starters will be Bynum and Gasol. You want pay starter’s money (and _good_ money) to a sub, even if it’s a SUPERsub.

    Ariza, on the other hand, is a SF starter. He’s younger and he won’t probably get as much interest as Odom. I think Rockets and Spurs would love to get hands on Ariza (they are deep into “new statistics” approach, which makes Ariza look great), but they will have a VERY tight budget.

    So given a choice between younger and cheaper starter and older and more expensive backup – sorry, but it’s not even close.

    I surely hope Lakers would find a way to keep both, because Odom is much more productive than it seems. And he’s a splendid insurance in case of Bynum/Gasol injury. So I’d love to be surprised.

    I don’t get from where comes all that love for Artest. I take Ariza or Odom over Artest every time. They know the system, they mesh very well with Kobe and Gasol, it’s a no-brainer.

    I don’t see Bryant taking a salary cut. He doesn’t look like that kind of guy. But if Lakers suggest defering some money? Or extending the contract for the price of lowering the salary?

    As for MLE and FA – I’d prefer to spend money on people we got. This is a very, VERY strong team. There is a good mix, there is a good chemistry. It’s not broken, so why fix it?

    Only roster move I’d like to see is kicking out Morrison with his contract. Maybe somebody would take it? He was a high draft pick. He will be on last year of the contract. He will be good and polite.

  33. I see Kobe taking a paycut, Lamar accepting 9-10mill a season n ariza getting the midlevel. Ariza atleast deserves as much as Sasha if not more.

    Off topic … Is anyone else worried that Tim Thomas might get bought out and end up with the celtics?? He is definitely an upgrade over big baby and he can stretch the defense with his outside shooting giving us even more problems

  34. I think Kobe’s issue with his contract is length, not money. Does he want to be a free agent in three years, or does he want to sign one last five year max deal? If he opts out, it is a max deal, and the Lakers can offer more than any other team in terms of raises and length. But, as Pincus pointed out, he takes a short term little (about $700,000 a year) hit for those extra years. I think this happens just like that, and the Lakers save a little short term. But a few years out, they are going to have to find a few really cheap guys who can contribute.

  35. 33) Trad,
    Artest at his peak was as good a player as Kobe, from the other direction. Absolutely superb on defense, and very good on offense. The hope for that level of play, along with his relatively cheap price, is the attraction of Artest.

  36. 20) Harold,
    ANd it’s not just Jerry Buss; his kids are getting their living off the Lakers as well. (Or at least some of them). Which decreases the likelihood of excessive spending.

  37. The reason Odom didn’t start at the three, other than the fact that he is a bit more productive at the 4, is that we had a three that could space the floor in Vlad.

    Now, with Vlad gone, we have Luke and Ariza (and Kobe if pushed) who aren’t really known for their 3 as Vlad was. Well, Luke posted decent numbers and Ariza has been hot, but they come with their limitations as well. Walton is Walton and Ariza is a bit more effective coming off the bench and finishing than he is starting.

    Also, Odom is a very viable 4 in case we go small. Bynum will never play 48 minutes per game, and we have the option of using Pau-Odom whenever Bynum is taking his breather – and build leads.

    Ariza, on the other hand, could never(never’s a strong word, but) play the 4 and unless we see dramatic improvement in his shots, really won’t be a 2 either. Of course if Sasha regresses and Ariza makes progress, we could have a semi-Kobe here, but I’m not sure if that’s anywhere near ‘reasonable.’

    I have Ariza in the top 5 players to keep from our team, but Lamar just happens to be number 4, and if push came to shove, barring a gigantic price-tag difference, it’s Odom over Ariza.

  38. Hypothetically, let’s say the luxury tax line drops $5 million to around $66 million. Then let’s play hopeful and say we sign Odom for $8 million, Ariza for $5 million, and three filler minimum players. That would put our payroll at around $90 million, which amounts to $114 million after taxes. There’s simply no chance Buss pays that, based on the past. And that demonstrates just how crushing it will be for us (and everyone) if the tax line falls, even at all.

    Now, let’s say the tax line rises (as everyone had planned) by a little to around $75 million, and we signed the same players for the same amount. Our payroll would still be $90 million, but our after tax cost would fall from $114 million to $105 million — a difference of $9 million.

    So, I think it’s somewhat reasonable to conclude that having the tax fall by a few million rather than rise, we might lose the opportunity to sign someone like Odom.

    Of course, given that all teams will be facing this unexpected disaster, we are likely to see a market this summer like we’ve never seen before — which will only be compounded by the 2010 hysteria. Everyone is going to be trying to cut salary to limit their tax obligations, those with cap space are mainly small market teams that can’t afford to toe the tax line, especially now; those who would usually use their midlevel will not. So players that hit the market this summer could be in for a shock, including our own free agents. That will create a tricky dynamic as Mitch tries to maximize payroll by using this leverage to drive down salaries, but also not alienating players we want to keep loyal.

  39. It’s official….sort of. New Orleans Hornets to create a “discovery committee” to research possibilities to move to either KC, Anaheim or St. Louis.

    Interesting.

    I wonder what the Kings will do? I bet Memphis is jealous that they can’t do the same.

  40. 34 Yusuf–agree on both fronts. I think Lamar recognizes that (1) the team is going to re-sign Trevor anyway, and (2) the Mihm and Vlad trades were done with re-signing LO in mind. I would bet that he sees the effort Buss is making to re-sign him, so he will take less than his fair market value to re-up with the Lakers. I think something like 3 yrs/$27-30 million will do the trick for LO, with Trevor getting three years at the mid-level. I’m guessing Buss and Anschutz (AEG) want to keep the winning going.

    As for the Evil Green Empire, I hope that they decide on Mikki Moore. I don’t want to see Joe Smith, Tim Thomas, Rasho, or even Bobby Jackson go there. It would be great if Moore gets bought out sooner rather than later and the other guys’ teams all make noises about keeping them, forcing the C’s into a panic signing of Mikki.

    23 exhelo–I’m pretty sure that to maximize both LO’s and Drew’s ability, Drew will come back with the 2nd unit when he returns this season, and ultimately play 24-28 minutes a game in the last two rounds of the playoffs. I also believe that the Lakers have to take a serious look at limiting his minutes for the next couple years to ease the stress on his joints until they’ve matured. That’s what the MLB does with its pitchers now, limiting their innings until they’re 24 or 25 when their tendons and ligaments mature. Doing the same with Drew would allow him to come off the bench and destroy backup centers for the next couple seasons, allowing LO and Pau to work their cutting and interior passing magic with the first unit.

  41. And re the AEG angle — we need to remember the recession cuts both ways. Yes they will want LA Live full of Lakers traffic to bring in revenue, but they have likely sustained, and will continue to sustain, unexpected revenue shortfalls from the development and be anxious to cut costs where possible.

  42. Not sure if anybody else has mentioned this but Mbenga and Powell are each signed through the end of the year. Which means Bynum and Pau are the only big men under contract. Hopefully we don’t have to pay them much more than what they’re getting now but whatever the numbers, they’d be doubled. If they want to save every penny, couldn’t they sell their draft picks like Phoenix did?

    If they DON’T re-sign Odom, and trust Powell in that spot, that is a huge downgrade, as much as I like Powell.

  43. Funny how the players and the owners are not making a move to abolish or at least temporarily suspend the luxury tax.

    I guess I can understand owners not motioning for one as this gives them ample excuse to drive down salaries and make cuts, but players? How do players benefit from the luxury tax system?

  44. 37- this is the genius behind having the owner’s daughter seeing the coach. The 10 mil they pay PJ helps support Jeannie too! Keep it in the family.

  45. I would love for the Lakers to resign both Odom and Ariza, but I have no idea if Buss feels that is in his best business interests (this is a business after all). I don’t know who you choose between Ariza and Odom. One the one hand, Ariza is younger and cheaper. And the other Odom brings things to the floor that would almost be impossible to duplicate and provides depth in the front court.

    It ultimately comes down to market value and what Buss is willing to pay. It also depends on what other players the Lakers could pick up for cheap. For instance if Sheed was willing to sign a small contract for 2 yrs 4M to play for a contender ffor the last two years of his career would that make Odom’s salary less business friendly. I know Sheed is older and not what he used to be, but he would be a serviceable big off the bench and an insurance big if Pau or Bynum were to get injured. I’m not suggesting the Lakers do this, but this might go into consideration when deciding on who to resign.

  46. Breaking news: Garnett injured in Utah game, could be serious. Looked like a non-contact injury to his right knee.

  47. I hope Powell sticks around. I can’t imagine him holding management for ransom either.

  48. 46 – Looks like he hurt it on the way up.

    KG jumped, and pulled his right leg up while still in the air. He landed with his full weight on his left leg, and took a few halting steps on the bad leg.

    He hopped all the way to the Locker Room.

  49. Let’s build on Reed’s excellent point regarding a lowering of the tax line and combine that with Ryan’s point from #9 about Buss’ spending limit (potenially) being $100 mil including the luxury tax. Let’s take Reed’s figure of $66 mil as the lux tax line…that would make the teams maximum payroll figure (pre lux tax) $83 million. That would mean we’d have a little over $8 million dollars to fill out our roster with. Think about that for a second. As Kurt mentioned, we would have 9 players under contract and we have traditionally carried 14 players on our roster. So the team would have $8 million to sign three to five players? If one of thse players is a mid-level deal (say Ariza) we may only have $4 million for four more players! The lowering of the tax line could not only keep us from retaining LO, but it could really impact our ability to fill out our roster with anyone useful (or make it so Ariza is out of our price range depending on a potential offer he gets from another team or it be the complete opposite because every team is going to control costs and that may make it where everyone comes cheap and we’ll get a ton of bargains on good players).

  50. I think I’m siding with Zephid on this one. TA is good and fun, but he’s no LO. I also think it is premature to count on AB. Let’s see him play a whole season before we’re ready to throw Odom out like some unnecessary commodity. I love what AB brings, but I’m not sold on him being durable enough for a full NBA season.

    I think this discussion is also a little premature. Let’s see how the season plays out. Let’s see who steps up or bails out come playoff time. That will be a better gauge of what the Lakers may have in TA, LO and (I hope) AB.

  51. Any updates on KG’s injury would be much appreciated.

    (Looks like I’ll be watching Sportscenter tonight… With only 2 games in the Association and this incessant A-Rod saga hogging all the airtime I was going to give it a miss)

  52. That’s terrible news. He doesn’t deserve that. I couldn’t see anything unseemly happening. He jumped off the leg and in mid air pulls it up like he hurt on the take off, then lands on his other leg. As he jumped off it, it buckled sideways slightly. Hopefully its nothing. I’m not a boston fan, but I am a KG fan and even if I want to beat a team I want to beat them at full strength with no excuses.

  53. I don’t think anyone necessarily wants to run LO out of town, it’s simply a matter of economics and priorities.

  54. J.D., your magnanimity and compassion are to be commended, but I don’t think there were too many Celtics fans who were upset seeing Bynum styling the latest fashions from Hugo Boss during last years Finals.

  55. #55,
    Probably not, by why should we stoop to their level?

    Though I am generally in favor of anything that weakens the Celtics, common decency draws a line at wishing for injuries. It has nothing to do with magnanimity, it’s basic sportsmanship. And besides, we don’t want to listen to an entire off-season of, “the Lakers would never have won if Garnett had been healthy”, do we?

  56. Yeah fair play, but I didn’t exactly ‘wish’ this injury upon KG either.

    But tbh, it is hard for me to be too sympathetic considering

    a) Bynum’s injury

    b) it’s the Celtics

    c) KG has acted like a petulant brat ever since winning a ring

  57. 49. Going back to Reed’s point via Darius, I think we may all be surprised by bad the market really is for players trying to get signed. I love Ariza as much as the next FB&Ger (I think I say the phrase, “I love Ariza” at least twice a game), but I’m very skeptical that he’ll be offered in $5M in this climate. He does great things for our team, but his stats don’t jump off the page and there are bigger names available.

    All that being said, even if a reasonable figure for Ariza is more like $3.5 or $4M, that theoretical “Buss cap” of $100M does put us in a tough spot–as Darius pointed out, $8M to sign 3-5 players is less than ideal.

    Something has to give. Morrison and Fisher’s contracts both expire after next year, and both make about $5M. I’m not sure what the veteran’s minimum is, but I assume Fisher will be willing to sign for less than $5M given his age, the chance to retire as a Laker, and (hopefully) the prospect of more rings. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that we let Morrison walk. The reasonable salary people are settling on for LO seems to be around $8M/year, probably something like 5 years for $42M? If we assume that’s the total value of the contract, do we think it’s possible (or even allowable, I don’t know the CBA well at all) that Lamar would consider a back-loaded contract of some sort? For instance, we pay him something like $4M next year, then his salary jumps to $9M the following year after Morrison comes off the books and Fisher’s contract decreases? That scenario could potentially allows us to sign Ariza and Odom next year, and then give Odom the money he deserves once our payroll shrinks and the economy (again, hopefully) improves?

    I’m probably grasping at straws here, but the scenario Darius laid out seems awfully grim, but disturbingly plausible. Anybody?

  58. It may not be as bad as it seemed. The knee has apparently been sore a while and KG was able to walk on it and tried to get loose enough to play the second half. He wasn’t able to. They’re calling it a “strained right knee” which I think means “unspecified knee pain.” They’re not committing to him getting an MRI, they are just going to rest it and hope it gets better.

  59. Where can you find the projected salary for 2009-10? I can only find this year’s…

  60. Well I have money on the Jazz tonight, so KG’s absence will do nicely, even if it’s only for one game.

  61. Oh, I’m not exactly sympathetic. Garnett turned into a very annoying person after the trade. I’m with J.D. though, it’s more satisfying to beat an opponent that is at full strength… ;)

  62. Last time I checked, Luke Walton was our starting SF, not Ariza, so Ariza’s a sub, same as Odom will be if both Bynum and Pau start. This is assuming Bynum returns healthy and in shape, which is a huge assumption given the nature of his injury. And one could even argue that we’ve played better without Bynum than we have with him, what with our perfect road trip which included wins in Cleveland and in Boston. This is probably no fault of Andrew’s, but moreso the fact that Pau and Odom are getting more burn with Andrew out.

    Anyone who says we can’t pay a sub starters money is delusional; look at Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry, Richard Hamilton, Andrei Kirilenko, all guys who come off the bench for their respective teams, and all of them make just as much money as Odom. I don’t think anyone can say that any one of those guys is definitively better than Lamar Odom. And I also don’t think those teams would be anywhere near where they are now without those guys.

    I agree with everyone that keeping both Odom and Ariza is the best way to go, but if we had to choose one, I don’t see how we can go with Ariza over Odom. Which would Jerry Buss prefer: Saving 6 mil (assuming Ariza signs for 5 mil over Odom’s 8 mil, times 2 for luxury tax), or getting a championship? With Odom in the mix, we are a lock to be a contender for the championship; without him, the path gets that much harder. In a pinch, Odom can play the SF for us; he’s certainly fast enough to do it. But there’s no way we can get Trevor to play the 4 (unless it’s against GS). I love Trevor as much as anyone here, but what he brings is more replaceable than what Odom brings. Odom’s intangibles, versatility, and even his glue-guy status, far outweigh the hustle and energy of Ariza.

  63. i dont mean to be combative…

    but exheldovr….Artest in his prime was as good as KOBE???

    and then about 20 posts and no one said anything???

  64. Ryan O.

    Odom’s pre-Bynum injury stats are not that much better than Ariza’s.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/teams/lal/stats

  65. Artest is the best player who has ever gone into the stands to attack a fan. Period.

  66. Rodman wrote on February 19, 2009 at 10:52 pm
    “Artest is the best player who has ever gone into the stands to attack a fan. Period.”

    Touche’

  67. haha Rodman…

    true.

  68. 1. Lost in the discussion is that 5 mil a year Sasha is pulling in as a backup Guard. I am a huge fan of Ariza , but Kobe can play the three with Sasha at the two. Also, athletic wings are easier to replace than skilled bigs.

    2. All teams are going to have luxury tax and other payroll concerns. Notice Portland decided to let Raef’s insurance covered contract just expire (as will Cleveland with their own). So any team offering Odom 8+ million is taking a huge risk. Will Detroit use up its cap space to have a 30 year old Odom play the 4? That does not make them a title contender. All teams are going to ask themselves if Odom at 9 mil or Ariza at 5 mil is really going to help them win a title. So that should help us out a little.

    3. I am a huge fan of Ariza’s, but we should not overstate his potential. Ronnie Brewer is a solid role player, but no one here thinks he is going to be an all star. Same with Travis Outlaw. Now compare Ariza’s height, weight, age, and current stats with those two. Considering, I think those are pretty generous comparisons for Ariza, even.
    http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/headToHeadResults?statsId1=3860&statsId2=3726&statsId3=4142&

  69. Something I haven’t seen people talking about is length of contract for Odom. If he is willing to take less he’d probably want to make up for it in length. With Bynum locked up (and Luke), and Kobe maybe looking for that length, this could factor into Buss’s decision. Pau is signed for 2 years after this, so whatever the considerations are next year they only get bigger going forward. If Kobe + Shaq made Buss balk, what about Kobe + Pau + Bynum + Odom in a tanked economy?

  70. JD, I was thinking about length, especially in terms of it being back loaded to get us out of this cinch, but are we sure that the economy (and thus the cap) is going to increase in the future?

    Also, players’ worth rarely increase with age unless they are rookies. Odom is old and has a history of injuries, Ariza is not quite that old but he doesn’t really strike me as the sturdy type nor can we be sure that he’ll be able to sustain this year’s effort (Luke was quite promising back then too, when he was signed).

    So a back loaded, lengthy deal around 5 years would be quite risky… and for what?

    Lakers are already selling out, and they probably will as long as we have Kobe.

    And when we have Bynum, Gasol and Kobe, the players we’re worried about don’t even start for us. That’s not to say that we don’t need them or that we will enjoy this level of success without them, just that this year is an anomaly and we should be thankful about what we’ve got.

    Thankfully it seems that other teams that are more worried about money than we are (see NO with Chandler) and quite a few marquee names in this year’s list as well as next year’s, so we won’t be seeing much competition for these guys, if any.

  71. Kobe+shaq didn’t make Buss balk, afai can remember….it was Shaq’s petulance.
    (and in the end he ended up taking less money in Miama….)

  72. Darius, you did state the facts as they may/might be for Buss, only around 8m to spend to fill out the roster. Can we field a team with just 11 players or so signed? I guess Ariza and LO could split the 8m for that number, huh.

    The thing about the economy, is that if you are still making the money that you were before all of this hit and not worried that it will change in the future, you are not in a recession and will renew your season tickets, go to concerts and buy the same stuff you always did, nothing would need to change in your life.

    Do not take on more than you can handle, because it causes stress and pressure.

  73. Was anyone getting mixed feelings when KG got hurt. I know it doesn’t look serious, but I was thinking if we don’t meet them in the Finals b/c of an injury I would feel a little cheated. Kind of like when the Lakers didn’t make it to the Finals that one year where the Celtics were awesome back in the 80′s.

    On another note…
    I appreciate making moves that allow the Lakers to be more cost-effective and in the mean time not sacrificing our productivity. Excellent business decisions in the last two trades. The way we handled our finances is the main difference our situation is different from Phoenix’s.

    I appreciate our more than competent front office. Hopefully I’m not proven wrong if we don’t offer LO a decent contract this summer. But first things first let’s handle this season.

  74. Report was saying KG has been bothered by this injury for weeks.

    Also Pierce was getting that cooling spray for his right knee I believe. He’s been monitoring that for awhile.

    Glad Boston and Cleveland didn’t do anything to improve by the deadline. We know we can beat those two teams as currently constructed.

    Sorry for the double dribble.

  75. 75. While I still feel bad about Garnett’s injury, I wouldn’t really feel like we “cheated” if they fail in the playoffs/Finals as a direct result of it.

    No one gave us any slack when we were w/o Bynum and with Ariza at 25% efficiency back then.. why should we give them any now?

    …. Lol, yes, I’m being bitter over their treatment of our flub last year.. XD

  76. sT – That’s not entirely true. Spending habits for both People and corporations significantly change in a down economy. For individuals, its the fear that you may lose your jobs. For Corporations, its even worse: lsoing money in a bad economy can sink your stock price and drive investors away.

    While we can argue that the Lakers are somewhat isolated form this because of their traditionally high season-ticket renewal rate, this ignores a big chunck of the equation: the cost that are passed down to the Lakers by the landlord of Staples Center – AEG. For example, a buddy of mine who works for AEG tells me that sales are way down forluxury boxes for Lakers, Kings, Clippers and other events held at staples. Also, concession sales (including liquor) are way down from the prior year – even for Laker games. In fact, the next time you go to a Laker game take a look at the Luxury box level and you will notice that many of the luxury boxes are either empty or not filled to capacity. You will also be pleasantly surprised by the shorter lines at the concession stands. While not directly impacting Laker ticket revenue, tThis is a huge deal to AEG since the only ticket revenue they get from Staples for sporting events are the luxury boxes, the “Premium” seats and concession sales (the Lakers control ticket revenue for court side, floor level, Loge and upperlevel tickets). The effect here is that if AEG’s ticket/concession revenue is down for Staples center, they will be forced to cover some of their operational losses by charging more to the Lakers/Clips/Kings next year for using Staples (most contracts would allow an increase due to a cost of living/inflation adjusmtne). Thus, even if the season ticket holder renewal rates remain the same, the Buss’ can expect a little less profit for next year as they should already forsee increased operational fees from AEG.

    While we may argue that a million here or a million there is no big deal to Dr Buss, look at it from the point of view of what you would do if your income was reduced by 5, 10 or 15%. While you may still be able to pay all of your bills, you would certainly make certain adjustments to your spending habits. Thus, we should not assume that the Buss’ will make the same amlount of money as they did before.

  77. Great write up Kurt. People forget how much of a role AEG plays with the Lakers. I wrote about this during the Kobe drama in the summer of 07.

    http://jonesonthenba.com/2007/09/real-reason-kobe-bryant-isnt-going.html

    As for the rest of the league, the Salary cap/Lux tax might not drop as much as people think. It’s all determined by basketball related income, and as of right now the league is right around the same level as last year in ticket sales. Here’s what J.A. Adande said about the salary cap next season:

    “The salary cap is expected to drop next season, with a league memo suggesting a hypothetical number of $57.3 million, according to two team executives. Again, that is only hypothetical; the actual figure won’t be finalized until this summer. The salary cap is determined by taking 51 percent of the league’s basketball related income and dividing it among the 30 teams. The salary cap for the 2008-09 season is $58.68 million.”

  78. Touching upon what Harold (#44) said, isn’t it possible that the league might actually change the luxury tax system a little in this economic climate?

    I bet David Stern is really pissed at what a huge chunk of the league is doing right now in regards of dropping useful players for cap purposes. The system as it is doesn’t reward teams looking to build a solid contender and also results in a lot of clubs choosing to become essentially uncompetitive (e.g. Sacramento).

    So couldn’t the league, instead of levying a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, reduce the number to 75 cents for the dollar or something like that for a certain period of economic downtime? This would allow for some wiggle room for those teams looking to stay competitive. Granted, this would benefit the teams with a bigger market, but couldn’t that difference me made up through a slightly modified redistribution system of the luxury tax earnings? (How exactly are they redistributed?)

    Maybe some expert on the luxury tax can help me out whether this makes sense at all. But I’m pretty sure that Stern’s best interest is not to have LeBron and Kobe play in a league where one third of the teams won’t even compete.

  79. Well, this was an anticlimactic end to what was supposed to be a hyped up trade deadline — especially with how earth-shattering last years’ was. The Spurs failed to land Camby or Carter. The Celtics failed to improve their bench. The Cavaliers didn’t add an All-Star for Wally. I can live with the waiver wire players these teams could land with — Nesterovic, Smith, Gooden — as it’s not that big of a change in thhe playoff landscape.

  80. I’ve read somewhere (I can’t remember where…) the luxury cap next year will be a little over 69 million.

    I doubt the Lakers will give up either Odom or Ariza, though everything is possible. I think the team is willing to keep them both, but Odom really needs to cut his salary a little bit. On the other hand, there is not many teams are willing or able to make huge offers to them, and Ariza is a home boy. So I’m not worried about this summer.

    I don’t think we need another player, either. This team is good enough, and the chemistry is there too. Artest is good, but he is too loose cannon to fit in the Lakers. And I have high hopes on Ariza. And we will have a No.1 pick and 2 No.2 picks this year, the talent will be enough for us.

    I’m Chinese, so if my English is not good, please forgive me. :)

  81. 79) Kaifa,
    I don’t think Stern should do anything. This is more a result of overpaying for players the last several years. The result will hopefully be shorter, more realistic contracts. (Which will make players with questionable motivation work harder, too.)

  82. 41) I hope that is the plan for Drew this season (assuming the team and Odom continue at this level.)

    My personal opinion is that Bynum is injury-prone, but if letting Odom go meant re-signing Ariza AND getting a good PG, I would do it and take my chances.

  83. I would be very surprised if Walton was traded away. He functions very, very well in the role he is given.

    Coaches love his ability to play within the triangle, and he plays solid game after solid game. And, it would impossible to get back the value that he brings to the Lakers in a trade, as he would struggle in nearly any other system.

    At this point, the way the Lakers will improve is bench moves, not starter moves. Doing something to upgrade Sun Yue, or Morrison, or Brown, or Mbenga is the trick.

    Our Top 10 players are an amazing unit.

    Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Fisher, Walton, Odom, Farmar, Ariza, Sascha, and Powell.

    In that group, the “easiest” upgrades are going to be Fisher and Odom, and they are acknowledge team leaders and very important to the team’s chemistry.

    Down the list, looking at who might be traded:

    Kobe: Yeah, right.

    Pau: Hard to imagine him going anywhere else anytime soon. He is simply too good in the triangle. 20 and 10 and 5 a night with his durability is going to be hard to find.

    Bynum: With the way he had been playing in both of the last two seasons right before injury he is untouchable. Young, Talented Big Men with Upside are not dealt.

    Fisher: What would we get for him? And, how does that replace his leadership and experience? Late fouls and PUJITs aside, Fisher is a very good player.

    Walton: The Lakers simply couldn’t get equal value back, because Walton does so well in this system with these coaches, and that would not be true elsewhere.

    Odom: Another leadership guy. He drives us all crazy with some of his bone-headed three pointers, but would you really trade away the guy who has been a monster these last few weeks? And, especially as he is willing to come off the bench, and is reported to be willing to take less money on his next contract?

    Farmar: Fisher is not getting younger, and Jordan is very good.

    Sascha: Great off the bench player. Energy, defense, annoys the opposite team, plays hard, shoots the lights out and is not afraid to take the shot. Could we get back equal value?

    Ariza: Great off the bench player. Energy, defense, annoys the opposite team, plays hard, crashes the boards and is not afraid to take the shot. Could we get back equal value?

    Powell: Showing some skills lately, and a lot of promise. Could we get back equal value?

    So, of our ten best, who goes?

    I really hope that Mitch, Phil and Jerry sit down with everyone, and work it out, and keep these guys together to finish out Kobe’s career. It certainly seems like 2 or 3 rings are possible in the next 5 seasons.

  84. Luxury tax is in the CBA, it couldn’t be changed without reopening the negotiations with players union. I don’t see it happening before this offseason.

    Kobe-Pau-Andrew core is making us a front runner in the West, so I doubt Buss will zero his profit just to win another championship.

    Who is out SF starter, Ariza or Walton? Technically – Walton. But he’s playing 15.8 mpg, while Ariza 23.8, it’s 1 1/2 as much.

    Ariza/Brewer/Outlaw

    TS% .557/.556/.532
    Reb36 6.9/4.0/5.3
    Bl36+St36 2.9/2.1/1.7
    TO36 1.6/1.6/1.6

    For my money Ariza is clearly the best of them all. Yes, he has the lowestppg and pp36, but we have enough scoring in Kobe/Pau/Andy core.

    There was an interesting Lewis article in NY Magazine about Battier and Rockets using advanced statistics tools. I think Ariza is very similar to Battier – his worth is much, much higher than his ppg would suggest. Therefore I’m very glad that Rockets and Spurs wouldn’t have money to get him.

    As for Artest in his peak being equal to Kobe – please. Basketball-reference has a stat name WinShare. The best Artest seasons were 2002/03 and 2003/04, with 7.3 and 7.8 WS respectively. Since 2000/01 Kobe had one season with WS below 11, and it was because of playing only 66 games in 2004/05. Even then Kobe recorded 8.0 WS. In his last three seasons he’s got 15.4/13.3/14.3.

    Even Ariza is more productive than Artest. This year Artest has 2.9 WS in 1407 minutes. Ariza has 4.4 in 1286. I’m not a big fan of PER, but Artest has 15.3, while Ariza 16.7. And Ariza is much younger and has a lesser ego.

    Of course maybe the chance of seeing Artest fighting with Nicholson is worth paying him umpteen millions dollars.

  85. Long time FBG.

    I actually like the Economics talk… if you remember me from way before its my favorite topic. I think Kurt should open up the site more for discussions regarding these matters – we update as we go – and not just comment on the latest and hottest blog entry.

    Anyways…

    Hoopshype has the Laker Payroll at 74.1m next year. This carrying 9 players including Sun Yue… sans our 2 favorite guys Trevor and Lamar. Kobe’s option is still a huge factor to consider thus we can never really fully assume anything.

    2nd variable is the economics… the league uses an amount relative to the income it generates ++ so there’s never really a round figure amount we could use aside from educated assumptions of “a decrease by 1-2m” or so…

    3rd is how this economic situation affects the market value of the players. The “going-rate” so to speak in terms of $$. This will also affect how the agents will value themselves errr their players.

    One thing to note too: once the salary cap goes down, the tax line goes down and the MLE goes down as well.

    Onto some specifics…

    Scenario #1 – Kobe doesnt opt out, we want to keep both Lamar and Trevor.

    (We will peg the cap to be more or less the same and just round it down by a very little bit. For discussion purposes its 57M. MLE is down from 5.6M to 5.5M too. Tax line should be a round 71M.)

    Odom gets a contract of slightly above MLE… 8.5m starting salary.

    Trevor Ariza gets slightly lower MLE which is 4.5m.

    Rookie pick #29-ish gets about more or less 800k – which for purposes of discussion is pegged at 1M. (and we take out the unrounded amount in excess of the 74M payroll.)

    TBC…
    Suddenly, the Laker payroll balloons by 14m and will now be at 88M. This amount gives us 9 players + Trevor + Lamar + rookie. We still have to sign 3 guys but I assume its chump change time now so we will no longer use them in this model.

  86. Under scenario 1, which is more or less our favorite scenario, we will have a depth chart of:

    Fisher – Farmar – Yue
    Kobe – Sasha – AmMo
    Luke – Ariza
    Gasol – Odom
    Bynum – rookie

    If we take our team’s depth into consideration, we almost automatically need a big man to be the rookie (could be traded for pick #31 to escape salary guarantee but whatever…), we almost have to retain Josh Powell now, and we need 2 big men for our 13th and 14th member.

    This gives us the idea that we are actually in the hunt for veteran bigs who will fit the scheme of things on the cheap.

    Miscellaneous spendings of camp players will further bring our payroll up – eventually to 91m which is now 20M over the dreaded tax line – and $40M in terms of the more dreaded expense.

    Will the Buss and the incorporators be able to handle scenario 1?

    Scenario #1 is almost, I hate to say it, but a recipe for disaster which the remedy is – almost without a doubt – the eventual trade of Lamar Odom.

    TBC…

  87. Scenario #2 – Kobe doesn’t opt out still, we lowball Lamar Odom to 6M starting salary, we lowball Ariza to 4M starting salary.

    (Use same assumptions in terms of MLE, Cap and Tax line as S#1)

    This now becomes the “risky” scenario in which we hope the bad economics will force the players to.

    Problem: Not much to expound here except only to watch out for Detroit and their lust for big men cough Odom cough. Detroit can realistically offer Odom the salary he more or less “deserves” from LA. And mind you, the 1-2M pay-cut is no longer overrated. This time its real threat.

    Scenario #3 – mixed assumptions with Kobe opting out and supposedly taking a 3M pay-cut to facilitate scenario 1. That means Kobe signs a new contract which is actually lower than what he earned this season rounded to the amount of 20M starting salary.

    Problem: We know Kobe doesn’t really plan on bolting the Lakers this time… but will he really be generous enough to forego 3M?

    Scenario #4 – Let Odom walk, keep Ariza, use full MLE on another FA.

    Problem: Does the crop of FAs really intrigue you as much as keeping your own? with only a difference of 2.5-3M, is it worth the risk of losing Lamar and technically trading him for a new face?

  88. Scenario #5 – Trade.

  89. Has anyone thought Buss might be willing to spend a little extra for a year, knowing Fish’s contract comes off after next year? Fish’s contract alone would pay Trevor’s contract.

    I also tend to think whatever does happen is dependent on how we finish this year. If we win it all. I think the Lakers try to keep the squad together, then let Fish walk. That’s $5+ mill. If we do not, then re-signing both LO and Trevor are moot. It won’t happen anyway.

    With this market, LO will not get a big offer. I just can’t see it. Right now, teams have leverage. I think LO really only want to play in a few cities and we might be the only takers right now.

  90. * of the 3-4 cities. LA, NY, or Miami. Maybe Chicago?

    I think that really means something to LO. What other teams with cap space are *willing* to spend it, or want to spend it on LO?

  91. Interesting, I didn’t realize we also gave the Grizzlies cash to essentially pay for Mihm’s contract. So we just saved on the luxury tax part. That’s pretty genius by Mitch, send him to a team under the tax, pay for his contract, and everyone wins.

    (from Ludden’s Yahoo column)

  92. 3ThreeIII,

    Be more surprised to see Luke go because no team would dare take his contract. Not before, and especially not now. Forget the triangle.

  93. A few thoughts on the discussion.

    There is no way the owners will go for lowering the luxury tax (even if they wanted to open the CBA up again to deal with this, which they do not). The purpose of the tax is to penalize owners who spend big on contracts, there is no way that the owners of the Bucks or Griz or the other teams under the tax — and remember that two-thirds of the NBA teams are under the tax — are going to make a change so the Lakers and Knicks can save money. What would be their motivation? They get the payments from the tax, they are not going to take money out of their own pockets.

    78. MannyP13, that is interesting about AEG feeling the pinch in boxes and concession sales, but it totally makes sense. Still, they have to be big into the Lakers none the less, it is the one big draw that keeps LA Live with traffic right now. (Remember, the reason the Lakers are switching radio stations to 710 next year is ESPN is opening a studio inside LA Live.) They have put their chips in.

    Finally, I too have heard the $100 million figure for Buss, but I did not include it in the post because that is a guess. Maybe a very educated guess, maybe right, but we don’t know for sure.

    But for fun, let’s say it is $100 mil, with tax. To make the math easy, let’s say the Luxury Tax falls to about $70 mil next year (which is the number I heard from someone with a team). That means in real dollars Buss would be able to spend $85 million, the tax would take him to the $100. The Lakers already have $74 on the books. Think you can sign Ariza, Odom and three scrubs for $11 million? No. I think Warren’s guess of about $88 million is pretty close.

    So, does Buss bite the bullet for one season a few million over his budget to keep the team together? The next year he gets a few contracts off the books and may be able to save a little. But will he do it for one year?

  94. Re #1 scenario

    Suppose Buss is going to bump salaries up to $88M. But then it’s 2010/11. The guaranteed contracts would be:
    Kobe….. 24.8
    Gasol…. 17.8
    Bynum.. 13.8
    Odom……9.3 (estimation)
    Ariza……..5.0 (est.)
    Vujacic…..5.5
    Walton…..5.3

    and we would probably pick up Farmer’s option for 2.9

    $84M for 8 roster slots.

  95. If the Lakers decide to sign Lo, Ariz and 3 scrubs, they would get compensation from the NBA on the 3 scrubs assuming they are minimum contracts.

    “When a player has been in the NBA for three or more seasons, and is playing under a one-year, ten-day or rest-of-season contract, the league actually reimburses the team for part of his salary – any amount above the minimum salary level for a two-year veteran. For example, in 2005-06 the minimum salary for a two-year veteran is $719,373, so for a ten-year veteran, with a minimum salary of $1,138,500, the league would reimburse the team $419,127. Only the two-year minimum salary is included in the team salary, not the player’s full salary. They do this so teams won’t shy away from signing older veterans simply because they are more expensive when filling out their last few roster spots. ”

    That will help.

  96. A small point everybody seems to be missing is the minimum contracts don’t count against the luxury tax. So if we are sigining three at the minimum it will save roughly 3 mil that you guys are counting against the tax.

    Also the league pays like 50-60% of vet minimum contracts.

    There are savings that you guys are not accounting for making it easier (albeit slightly) pay our players to stay.

  97. One thing I am taking away from this discussion: The Lakers need to draft well the next few years. They need the cheap players who can grow into roles while still not costing much.

  98. Kurt, I agree 100% on the drafting part. Even I thought about the Economics involved thus even suggesting that we trade our 29-ish pick for a 32-35-ish pick to save up a bit on dollars yet still more or less get the same talent level. Having someone on the cheap for 3 years would be nice too, but strapped as we are, I think we even have to sell the 1st to get an early 2nd… but thats just me.

  99. Wondahbap, Fish coming off the books isn’t very helpful in my book of economics… For starters, it puts pressure on Farmar to be our lead guard. We have none to hone ATM thus it must mean that Jordan become our defacto PG.

    Oh and if it helps even further, the year Fish comes off the books is the year Jordan is due his extension. Ouch.

  100. Warren-Good to see you back in the fold. Try to get the first post up on tonight’s game thread, our record with you posting first is really freaking good.

    Exheldorv-You keep mentioning the prospect of letting LO go if we can nab a “good” PG, who do you have in mind, because the free agents do not look all that appealing right now (an old J.Kidd, an average M.Bibby, I kinda like R. Sessions, but he’s nothing specutacular)

  101. Warren,

    I doubt the Lakers renew Fish. Pressure on Farmar or not. That doesn’t matter. No way the Lakers re-up a 36 year old Fish.

    Plus, don’t assume that the Lakers will give Morrison the qualifying offer. That’s $6.89 mill gone.

  102. ESPN is reporting Amar’e Stoudemire is out for the year w/ eye surgery.

  103. 97.

    It’s also worth noting that we have three picks in the upcoming draft, which if the regular season ended today would be:

    Projected Pick/ ’08-09 Salary by pick
    1(30)- $957,120
    2(38)- $806,452
    2(60)- $542,114

  104. I showed this posting to a Warrior-fan friend of mine here in the Bay Area. His response: “The Warriors and the economy: we’re screwed for the next 4 years, at least.”

  105. Honestly, Kobe should opt out and take a longer deal but a lower salary. He can go down to 19MM per season to keep a the Lakers in contention for a title. If they continue to win, he’ll make up the money in other ways.

  106. Ow. Phoenix is truly snake bit this year.

    What I am taking from the economics situation is that this team really isn’t built to be a dynasty. Hopefully we win it all this year, but then we should all brace ourselves for the gradual shedding of parts, as happened with the Kobe-Shaq years, until we’re too barren to be able to compete. The Celtics are already going through a similar thing.

    Its not so much that I don’t think the team can’t survive without odom. They won’t be as good with powell or the equivalent playing backup and starting during injuries to our starters, but they’d still be damned good.

    Its more of a sentimental thing for me. Odom has stuck with this team through bad times and now good. He has given a lot to this team and I’d like to see him remain a Laker and be part of whatever legacy this group can make for themselves.

  107. I agree with Kwame, good to see you back Warren.

  108. I know it’s been talked about some, but we also have to factor in the championship/legacy effect. If we win it this year, it could lead Odom and/or Kobe to take a little less to extend this run. I don’t think it affects the younger players as much because they may have the mindset of “I’ve got my ring and need to get paid” (sort of like Turiaf last year), so Ariza is going to get 6 mil per year. Odom’s post game comments are that of someone who is driven to win this year. Once he’s tasted one title, he may want to re-up for less for the opportunity to win more. He’s stated numerous times that he’s well off and just wants to win. I could see him signing a longer term deal (5 yrs at 7-8 per year). And if Kobe were to opt out and sign for 2-3 million less, it makes things much easier on Dr. Buss keeping this team alive for longevity’s and legacy’s sake.

  109. On question I have is what the market will be like for LO in the offseason with teams feeling the economic pinch and all of the amazing talent on the horizon for the ’10 offseason. It would seem like most of the teams that have the cap space to pay Lamar 8-10 million would want to roll the dice on saving the money for next year.

  110. 103) I haven’t looked at the available PGs; that comment was just from the perspective of PG being the biggest need, especially with Fisher’s age. (Personal opinion is that Farmar will max out as a mediocre-level starter/good backup.)

  111. Ex-I agree with you re: Farmar. The reason I ask is if we keep Phil going forward, it makes more sense to me to keep LO (who can play the lead guard role on offense) and Trevor and work from there. Fish may want to re-sign for a lot less and ride it out with the Lakers, plus Luke and Sasha could also help initiate offense. I only think we would have to worry about getting a more traditional PG if Phil leaves.

  112. the other Stephen February 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    what a strange season it’s been for big men: elton brand, al jefferson, andrew bynum, michael bogut, tyson chandler, and now amare…

  113. Hornets are moving to St. Louis in 2011 apparently.

  114. 103: I second the motion that Warren should post first (I know it’s late over there, but we need to keep our streak going! =)

  115. 112.

    To follow upon this point:

    If the ’09-10 cap matches the current estimate of $57.3 mil, then the only teams who would be able to sign LO to an initial salary of >$8 mil are:

    Pistons: $33,093,746 commited (7 players)
    Grizzlies: $36,274,350 commited (8 players)
    Thunder: $39,006,888 commited (11 players)
    Hawks: $40,865,197 commited (7 players)
    Raptors: $45,753,371 commited (7 players)

    So, the question is do any of these teams make sense for LO and vice-versa?

    Maybe Detroit, as both McDyess (34) and Wallace (34) are UFAs who are significantly older than LO (30). And with only $11,148,760 committed to ’10-11, they could easily sign LO and have room to pick up another banner FA at that time.

    Maybe Ok City, as they lack quality veterans to help guide their young players and have nobody who can play in much less facilitate from the post on their roster. Plus, they don’t have to spend any big money on their kids until ’11-12 (Durant and Green) and ’12-13 (Westbrook).

    As for Memphis- they’re terrible and are going to be for a while. I don’t see Lo signing there for a couple of extra mil.

    Atlanta has big money already committed to one tweener (Josh Smith) and has several key rotation players who are UFAs (Bibby, Marvin Williams, & Pachulia). I don’t see where LO would fit into their plans.

    Toronto’s current roster precludes the need for LO. But with so of their players statuses up in the air, it’s hard to know what direction they might go in. Also, Toronto seems to a location where NBA players would rather not live.

  116. does anybody know if it’s possible to have Kobe take a reduced salary in exchange for some equity in the team?

    Magic Johnson is a player with equity in the team.
    they do it in the movie business all the time, if you can’t afford a movie star, or director, etc, you can offer some back end and pay a reduced rate.

    if anybody deserves a back end, it is Kobe.
    plus this would fix our luxury tax problem.

  117. Good to see you back in action Warren, you re-appeared with some great comments about the Lakers economic situation. Just try to get the first comment when the playoffs start, we will be OK during the regular season I think.

  118. Ariza shows potential and maturity for a level of consistent play that complements that of the other stars. His month to month 3pt shooting %’s are 20-28-35-42 this year, which tells me he has a strong work ethic and the mental fortitude to knock shots down. Consistency and mental toughness are not words I would use to describe Odom. True, in the past few games he is starting to get it, and he and Gasol play beautifully together. But that is more a result of the triangle offense and the skills of Gasol than Odom’s ability to contribute. Thus, I think his role is more replaceable than Ariza’s. Ariza will become a better player who will be worth more than the re-signing contract in a year or two. He just knows how to play basketball. I can’t say the same for Odom, who relies more on natural talent and instinct. The future is with Bynum, and obviously Gasol will be staying pat. So 8 million to me is not worth it for someone not getting significant minutes with Gasol, if you weigh this against the abilities of Ariza as well as the additional money to get another solid role player.

  119. 112) You’re forgetting sign and trade options. There is always leverage from the other side. And teams that might not have cap space now could make trades to free up more room to sign L.O. outright. But beyond that, the Lakers don’t want an unhappy L.O. L.O. is a reasonable guy, but he is definitely an $8MM per year player. Heck, we’re paying Sasha Vujacic $5.5MM.

    My sports law class is doing a mock negotiation exercise with Mitch. I didn’t get selected for it (they picked names out of a hat), but they are going to be dealing with all of these scenarios. Fun time to be doing such a thing.