While the Lakers have not been active in signing any outside free agents, they have made a decision to turn one of their own players loose onto the open market.
Lakers announce they have waived Tarik Black.
— Bill Oram (@billoram) July 1, 2017
Black was scheduled to make $6.7 million next season, but the entire amount was non-guaranteed if he was waived before July 4th. This amount now drops off the Lakers’ cap, leaving them with roughly $18.7 million in cap space now.
One way to look at this is that the Lakers could be in the mix for a mid to high priced free agent and they needed this salary space to pursue him. The team has reportedly had conversations with several free agents (Andre Iguodala, Rajon Rondo, Ben McLemore), though I’m guessing none of them would require the type of contract this move opens up.
Instead, then, my guess is that waiving Black now is really the culmination of several factors. First, Black is not likely to play many minutes next season. Brook Lopez is the team’s starting C and Ivica Zubac is a young player the team is high on and will want to give minutes to as the primary backup. Add to them the team liking to go small with either Julius Randle or Larry Nance Jr. sliding up to C and you can see how Black would have been squeezed for minutes and maybe out of the rotation entirely.
Second — and related — if Black isn’t going to play the Lakers are better served to do this move now in order to allow Black time to get into conversations with other teams where he can maximize his exposure on the market. Waiting until July 4th to make this move would not have been operating in good faith with the player and there’s no one who understands this better than Lakers’ GM Rob Pelinka who worked for two decades as an agent.
Third, waiving Black at all is reflective of the team not being able to trade him. The structure of Black’s non-guaranteed year and the fact that it did not trigger until after free agency began (most non-guaranteed triggers happen before the new league year begins on July 1st) tells me that the team always viewed him as a possible trade chip. The team could have aggregated Black’s salary into a larger deal looking to save money in a deal, sending him away only to ultimately be waived by the team that acquired him. By outright releasing him now, the front office clearly could not leverage Black’s non-guaranteed money in this way.
As for Black the player, I will miss him both on and off the court. Black is a pure hustle player who gets after it defensively, hits the glass hard, and finishes around the rim with force. He plays hard every minute he’s on the floor and was starting to flash some improvement in his game — especially at the foul line where he hit 75% of his FT’s after shooting 55% and 44% in his first two seasons.
Off the court, Black has always been mature beyond his years bringing a steadiness and serving as a sounding board for smart and nuanced takes on a variety of subject matters. I always viewed him as a great locker room guy and teammate, someone who could lead by example, but also by imparting words of wisdom to his peers by speaking up with a timeliness that would reflect an impetus for his teammates to take him seriously. Many of these qualities are reflected in a goodbye post he put up on social media:
This picture best describes my time here in LA. It’s been absolutely amazing and invigorating. I would like to thank the Lakers for an amazing ride and being there for me. From the staff, the team, and the fans I am indescribably grateful. You all opened the doors for me to live a dream to play for such an organization. I love you all and the Lakers are forever in my heart ??
I wish Black nothing but the best in his next opportunity. I think he can be a nice rotation big man for most any team in the league and I think he’ll show that wherever he catches on next.