Well, Lakers fans, you get to keep staring at Pau Gasol and watch him age before your eyes — until the trade deadline, that is. OK, maybe a couple months longer.
And the rebuilding plan that coincides with Kobe Bryant’s two-year contract extension? Don’t expect the Lakers to be flooded with max players. They still need to stay under the luxury tax line for two seasons to avoid the dreaded repeater tax, and it doesn’t look like this season will be one of them.
For reasons that are beyond reasonable, the Lakers failed to make the trade that could have sped up their rebuilding plan by a whole year, watching from the sidelines as the Cleveland Cavaliers shipped Andrew Bynum to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng. The Bulls also got a future first-round draft pick owed to the Cavs by the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls will get the Kings’ pick if it falls outside the top 12 in 2014 or outside the top 10 in 2015, 2016 or 2017.
The Bulls also got the 2015 and 2016 second-round picks the Portland Trail Blazers owed the Cavs. The Bulls will be able to swap draft positions with the Cavs in 2015 as long as the Cavs’ draft pick is outside the top 14 picks.
RELATED: BULLS SALARIES AND ANALYSIS
The acquisition of Deng, who failed to reach agreement with the Bulls on a contract extension during the preseason, should turn the Cavs back into contenders. Kyrie Irving’s team has lost eight of nine, but the Cavs sit only three games outside of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Welcome @LuolDeng9 to the Cleveland Cavaliers!
— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) January 7, 2014
“We have worked to acquire and maintain flexibility in order to capitalize on opportunities such as this,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. “Luol reflects all that we are striving for in building our team. He’s a tremendous defensive player that can impact the game on both ends of the court with a team-first mentality and is a high character leader.”
RELATED: CAVALIERS SALARIES AND ANALYSIS
It is debatable whether Gasol or Deng would have been a better acquisition for the Cavs, as Deng is five years younger — but will come at a steeper price if Cleveland wants to retain him when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
“We’re bringing him here and we’d like to keep him here long term,” Grant said of Deng, who may or may not arrive before tonight’s game against Philadelphia at The Q but likely will not play. “He’s 28 years old. We see him as part of our core and our youth moving forward. We’ll get through the season and get into those conversations at the appropriate time.”
Deng, making $14.3 million this season, can be a free agent this summer. Under the new collective bargaining rules, the Cavs could only offer him a three-year extension if they tried to do so before July . They could offer him a five-year deal once he becomes a free agent.
But back to the Lakers…
The Cavs were sitting on a ton of draft picks, and those draft picks could have become Lakers property to help with the rebuilding.
Instead, Los Angeles goes into this year’s draft with no second-round pick, and next year’s draft without a first-round pick or a second-round pick. They also owe a 2017 first-round pick from the Steve Nash trade.
How are you going to rebuild for Kobe’s farewell with just a single pick in the next two drafts?
As for the Bulls, they get to go below the luxury tax and throw away another season — officially now. They were never going to compete for a title without Derrick Rose, and Jerry Reinsdorf is coming off a 2012-13 season in which he cut a luxury tax payment check for the first time ever. Now, the Bulls are out of the tax for this year, and they can start concentrating on further rebuilding moves such as using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer in order to get far enough below the cap to pay more than $500,000 toward Nikola Mirotic’s $3 million buyout with Real Madrid.
So at least John Paxson and Gar Forman looked out for their owner’s wallet and made a move that will enable them to rebuild quickly. They are expected to waive Bynum, who will sign with the team of his choosing when he clears waivers at the end of the week. That’ll give hope to somebody — whether it is the Knicks, Heat, Clippers or someone else.
But it won’t be the Lakers, and that is a shame for fans in Los Angeles. They deserve to have a plan put in place to make a legit run at the championship in Kobe’s final season, and this was their chance to have a one-year shortcut.
And if you think the Buss family is some sort of West Coast version of the Mikhail Prohkorov, think again — yes, even with the $250 million annual TV deal with Fox.
Also, two things:
_ Remember that the Lakers are already getting hit hard financially under the league’s new revenue sharing plan. Yes, they have a monster TV deal with Fox Sports. But many of the other NBA teams are getting a piece of that pie. If the Lakers go under the tax this season, not only do they not have to pay it, they also get to share in the tax expenditures made by other owners — a substantial pot of money given what Mikhail Prokhorov is paying for the Brooklyn Nets. So when you pay the luxury tax, you also preclude yourself from receiving luxury tax revenues.
_ You must understand how punitive the repeater tax is, and it bears repeating that any team that exceeds the tax threshold in four out of five seasons under the new CBA is subject to the repeater tax. (The Lakers paid it last season and the previous season, and they are over the threshold for this season. So in order to stay out of repeater territory, they need to be below the tax threshold for two years.) Here are the details of the higher luxury tax that went into effect this season (it used to be a dollar-for-dollar tax):
For the 2013-14 season, the tax level is $71.748 million. The tax rates run from 150 percent to 325 percent:
$0 – 4.99M above the tax threshold: $1.50-for-$1.
$5M – 9.99M above the tax threshold: $1.75-for-$1.
$10M – 14.99M above the tax threshold: $2.50-for-$1.
$15M – 19.99M above the tax threshold: $3.25-for-$1.
Tax rates increase by $0.50 for each additional $5 million increment above the Tax Level. (e.g., for Team Salary $20 million to $24.99 million above the Tax Level, the tax rate is $3.75-for-$1 for that increment).
Now, the repeater tax rates for teams that are taxpayers in at least four out of any five seasons (starting in 2011-12).
$0 – 4.99M above the tax threshold: $2.50-for-$1.
$5M – 9.99M above the tax threshold: $2.75-for-$1.
$10M – 14.99M above the tax threshold: $3.50-for-$1.
$15M – 19.99M above the tax threshold: $4.25-for-$1.
If the Lakers want to have Carmelo Anthony (2014 free agent) and Kevin Love (2015 aboard) along with Kobe in 2015-16, they are going to be subject to the repeater tax. And to repeat, if you do not own a vast number of diamond mines and gold mines, that tax is prohibitive.
And let’s make one thing clear: The Buss children like money. They don’t like wasting money. The repeater tax is so punitive, it is a waste of money unless it guarantees a championship. It is to be avoided like the plague, and to avoid it you have to get under the tax for two seasons.
This was the Lakers’ chance to make this one of those seasons.
They blew it.
And they’ll pay for it — one way or another — in the final season they have Kobe Bryant under contract.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of Sheridan Hoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.