The Lakers are like Jaws every year. It might be unfair to put that characterization to something that is more of a perception. But the Lakers are always there beneath the deep blue sea of rumors, lurking, seemingly ready to strike at any moment.
If what Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is hinting at, I think the NBA is going to need a bigger boat.
Kupchak tells Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times that the Lakers, in the wake of getting turned down on a Chris Paul trade and sending away Lamar Odom to the Mavericks, that the Lakers are still “pursuing big deals.” With Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers still have valuable assets to make a major move in the trade market should the roster begin showing its age.
Sure, Kobe Bryant is upset that the team gave away Lamar Odom to a conference rival when Odom requested a trade. And, sure, the team started showing its age in the Playoffs to those very same Mavericks, but it is still one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
But Kupchak sees the end of the Kobe era ending and he is trying to keep the Lakers relevant while preparing for a post-Kobe world (as much as Kobe Bryant probably hates the thought of him slowing down). That is why the Lakers are trying their best to acquire Chris Paul or get into the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. And, after all, they are the Lakers. They seemingly HAVE to matter.
Los Angeles has always been aggressive going after the players they want and the franchise is not afraid to pull the trigger. It will admittedly be hard for Los Angeles to make those “big deals” moving forward.
With Lamar Odom gone, the Lakers’ payroll went down from a league-high $91 million last year down to $82 million. That will still be tops in the league, but it is getting closer to the $70 million luxury tax line. The payroll committed for the 2013 season is currently set for $59.4 million. That is much better. And the Lakers still have their amnesty clause to use if they want to get into the free agency hunt — Ron Artest Metta World Peace’s $14 million over two years or Steve Blake’s $8 million over two years might be nice to clean up if they feel it necessary.
Kupchak predicted that elevated luxury tax is going to be a deterrent for his Lakers. Fortunately for him, it seems the Lakers are set up currently to be able to make a play for some solid players once the new luxury tax kicks in.
“Understanding the landscape and the collective-bargaining agreement as I do, I would be very surprised if in three years the extra punitive tax doesn’t materially affect what teams do. You’re seeing it now. Have you seen the guys that are being waived and being ‘amnestied?’
“Everything we do is not solely connected to the player and his talent. There always are other considerations. Other considerations are financial considerations in the next two years. You can look around the teams that were in the Finals and see who they signed back and didn’t sign back. You can start seeing effects right now.”
Yeah, a big more might still be in the works. The Lakers refuse to stay irrelevant for long. And they won’t. They are lurking out there in the deep ready to strike. The question is will it be soon?