Anthony Davis has been playing at the MVP level for several weeks, surpassing even Giannis Antetokounmpo recently in a Lakers victory. LeBron James still strong at age 37, Russell Westbrook accepted the role and changed the rules of the game as a sixth man, with the Lakers role players hitting 3-pointers.
It’s been an impressive run, but can the Lakers continue like this and pose a real threat in the West? Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and I discuss all of this and whether the now healthy Clippers can find a way to become a threat.
In Corey’s Jukebox, he dances some salsa and explains how Nikola Jokic is similar to Beethoven. Then there is talk of Kyle Kuzma trade rumors and what Washington’s long-term plans are.
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NBA owners and players make too much money to risk messing things up with a workforce shutdown, right? RIGHT?
Don’t be so sure.
In a sign that both parties have a lot of work to do to reach the terms of the new Collective Agreement – primarily due to an internal dispute between the owners – the NBA (representing the owners) and the players’ union have agreed to push back the date of the CBA’s waiver from December 15 (the current CBA ends July 1, 2023). Mark Stein reported this earlier in the week. (described here) and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added more details today..
Negotiations for a new CBA are ongoing and formal ratification of the extension – likely in February – is expected to take place at a virtual meeting of the board of governors on Wednesday, the sources said.
What is the stumbling block? Owner group — worried about the huge luxury tax spending by the Warriors, Clippers and Nets — is pushing for a “spending cap” for teams. Call it what you will, it’s a hard cap and there’s no chance players will sign any form of hard cap.
The NBA used a punitive and gradually increasing luxury tax to curb the spending of some owners. However, some owners – it’s not clear how many there are, but enough for the NBA to raise the issue – feel the tax isn’t doing its job once new, even wealthier owners come in.
Sure, some owners don’t care about the tax. To use the example I gave earlier, Steve Ballmer’s Clippers have to pay $191.9 million in wages this season, resulting in a $144.7 million luxury tax bill (which adds up to a total wage and taxes in the amount of $336.6 million). The Warriors and the Nets will be on the same level. The Clippers will pay more in taxes alone than the 11 teams spend on total wages. Two-thirds of NBA teams will pay about $150 million or less, not much more than the Clippers’ tax bill.
Recently, the same NBA owners approved a rule change that would allow the sovereign wealth fund — the financial arm of mostly oil-rich countries like Qatar or Saudi Arabia — to buy up to 20% of an NBA team as a silent partner. It hasn’t happened yet, but the door is open. This is part of a scheme in which wealthier owners, including hedge fund managers and the like, are entering the NBA playing field.
All this makes some of the more established, older owners feel cramped by this new group’s willingness to spend money. This is leading older owners to push for a hard cap to stop what they see as increased willingness to spend.
Again, there is no chance that players will approve of the hardcap. The owners are aware of this, but some seem willing to teeter on the edge of a profitable, growing business (especially international) to protect their profits.
If you’ve read all of this and thought, “It’s not really about the players, it’s about the relationship between owners and owners,” you’re right. The league and the players are giving owners more time to deal with internal issues.
Luka Doncic is in the first year of a five-year, $215.2 million contract. What’s more, when asked recently if Mavericks fans should be worried about him wanting to leave as the team stumbled over points to start this season, Doncic didn’t seem like the kind of guy who wants to run away:
“I don’t think they’re worried about it right now. I got that, five years left here, so I don’t think they should worry about it.
The Mavericks front office should be worried about this – teams are always on the lookout with a superstar.
Mavericks let Jalen Brunson leave in the offseason, then brought Christian Wood (whose defense is a problem and he comes off the bench). This team remains in a couple of players from rivals, despite the fact that Doncic has a potential MVP carrying a historic offensive load.
That doesn’t mean Doncic will ask out on a date or this summer (he won’t), but if his frustration grows over the next couple of years… who knows. Tim McMahon of ESPN rated it well Hoop Collective podcast (Real GM hat tip):
“I think they have a two-year window. This season and next season are moving into this summer . I think they have a two year window when like Milwaukee did with Giannis [Antetokounmpo]I think in this window they really need to convince Luca that he has a chance to fight year after year right here in Dallas. If they can’t do it within that two year window, I’m not going to sit here and tell you he’s going to force a deal or ask for a trade. I’m just saying that at this point, if he’s not happy, he has all the leverage in the world if he wants to leave.
“I don’t think Luka will look for reasons to leave. I think he would be perfectly happy to spend his entire career in Dallas. But if he does not need to look for reasons and they spit in his face, then this is a problem. He is also a guy who is a ruthless competitor, which means he loves to win. He is used to winning. He won championships with Real Madrid. He won the EuroBasket championship with the Slovenian team. He also hates to lose. Like, I can’t stand it.”
The Mavericks advanced to the Western Conference Finals last season, eliminating the Suns in the process with 64 wins – a team not what long away. Not with Doncic handling the ball. But it feels like the team has taken a step back from those high levels this season. There are so many more questions than answers, and it’s impossible to predict how Doncic will feel after this season’s playoffs, let alone those that end in the summer of 2024.
But the Mavericks should let the Dallas front office know this season that this team isn’t good enough. And if we know it, then you can be sure that Doncic knows it.